2010-07-14 / Restaurant of the Week

Agnanti Restaurant

It doesn’t get much better than a delicious Greek meal eaten outdoors with delightful, cool breezes emanating from bucolic Astoria Park.

Agnanti Restaurant, whose name means “gazing” promises a singular summer experience as you dine just off the edge of the park in this rustic, casual eatery. Owner Maria Lambrianidis greets guests with her bubbly personality and takes the time to sit and chat with some while she oversees the operations of her two restaurants, located here in Astoria and in Brooklyn.

Agnanti specializes in authentic Greek cuisine using traditional recipes, some of which date back to the time of Constantinople. From her grandfather’s city of Smyrna come dishes such as mussels with rice and pine nuts, hand rolled grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs and delicately fried codfish croquettes served with garlic and pine nut sauce. A specially made dish of meatball with spices cooked in fresh tomato sauce is another recipe from this historic place. A house specialty is the slow-cooked rooster prepared in tomato sauce with herbs and squares of pasta ($16). This hearty dish is comforting food from ancient times.

Our polite, efficient waiter, Alex, told us about some of the evening’s specials and so we started with an appetizer called “briam”. This vegetable stew was made with fresh eggplant, zucchini, potatoes and tomato and was steeped in flavor. The menu has an extensive list of appetizers, both hot and cold. We also sampled shrimp kataifi, which are plump shrimp rolled in shredded pastry that bakes up golden brown and crunchy, served in a puddle of delicate mustard sauce that provides a hint of sweetness. This dish was absolutely delicious, beautifully presented and with four to an order, is ideal for sharing ($13). The bakers at Agnanti make flaky pies each day, filled with spinach, cheese or mushrooms and herbs as in the “kalitsounia”, a specialty from Crete ($8). Zucchini and cheese croquettes from Mykonos are savory and golden brown and perfect to share ($7.50). Hot off the grill, loukaniko, hand made sausage are scented with either orange or leeks and the grilled octopus is fork tender and perfectly marinated. Cold starters include a fresh array of dips such as taramosalata, eggplant salad, tzatziki, and spicy cheese dip. Of course there are plenty of fresh salads, served small or large to share. Order a bottle of wine to go with your meal or try the house wine, as we did, served in a colorful pitcher.

Entrées include more than a dozen fish and seafood dishes, as well as meat and poultry. The outdoor setting seemed the perfect place to enjoy a whole red snapper, the catch of the day, grilled over hot charcoal and drizzled with lemon and olive oil. This flaky, meaty fish was so fresh and tasty and offered plenty to share with my dining companion. Swordfish kebabs are laced with vegetables and get their irresistible flavor from a pass over the coals, as does the juicy salmon. Mussels in wine sauce or a mix of seafood can be had over pasta ($16). Order shrimp on the grill for a light summer meal.

Paidakia are tender, baby lamb chops served sizzling hot from the grill. Juicy pork chops or T-bone steak will satisfy the meat eaters nicely. Everyone loves the chicken kebabs too. All meat and fish entrées are served with your choice of their fabulous lemon potatoes, seasoned rice, French fries or sautéed dandelion greens called “horta”. Classic hearty Greek fare is also well-executed here, such as their richly layered moussaka, pastitsio baked pasta dish and hearty lamb stew with orzo called “giouvetsi”.

Though we were stuffed to the “gills”, Maria brought over their house made walnut cake served with a dollop of thick, creamy Greek yogurt and marinated cherries, a dessert fit for the gods. They also have fruit salad with honey syrup and a delicious semolina cake with orange syrup.

Agnanti is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner from 12 noon until 11pm. Enjoy a stroll or bicycle ride through the park before or after a meal here for the perfect summer experience. Agnanti also provides catering for all occasions to help you plan your next party. Visit Agnanti Restaurant for a delicious meal, served in a relaxed, casual setting where cool breezes blow. Yasoo! AGNANTI RESTAURANT

19-06 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria / 718.545.4554

7802 5th Avenue, Brooklyn / 718.833.7033

www.agnantimeze.com

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