2011-06-22 / Restaurant of the Week

PASTA DEL GIORNO

For the love of good food, you owe it to yourself to enjoy a splendid meal at Pasta del Giorno on Austin Street in fashionable Forest Hills. For more than 20 years, amiable hosts, Anthony Gauna and Hector Sandez have been serving fresh pastas, salads, prime cuts of meat and seafood entrées at reasonable prices. The lovely dining room can best be described as peaceful and serene, with gentle notes of warm yellow and rose with hanging plants that emulate a Mediterranean garden. On this particular night, the front doors were opened onto the street allowing balmy breezes to fill the room. Besides the delicious food, the staff is exceptionally skilled at being attentive, professional and just delightful, especially Willy, who doted on us all night.

Over the years, Pasta del Giorno has accumulated hundreds of steady customers who come for consistently superior Italian cuisine, delivered in a warm and friendly atmosphere. The chef delights them with nightly specials that keep them coming back for more. We started with a featured special appetizer of grilled calamari. This fresh calamari was very tender and grilled to a nice finish, served with a beautiful palette of grilled vegetables for a colorful combination of earth and sea. Another special was grilled Portobello mushroom with smoky pancetta bacon, fontina cheese and asparagus, finished with brandy sauce. Order a bottle of wine to complement your meal or start with your favorite cocktail from the full service bar. There are reasonably priced wines by the glass or bottle from Italy, Chile and California and your wait staff can help you decide if you need it. From the daily menu, try the Caprese salad for a taste of summer in Italy. Buttery slices of mozzarella are layered with slices of juicy tomato and fresh basil leaves for the flavors that represent Italy. Zuppa di vongole are fresh Little Neck clams steamed in an aromatic broth of wine, garlic and herbs. These same juicy clams are also offered with a topping of savory breadcrumbs and baked until crispy brown. Eggplant rolled up with fluffy ricotta is a house favorite and I love the carpaccio of beef, paper thin sliced raw filet mignon, topped with shaved parmigiano, resting on a bed of fragrant arugula. The soup of the day was stracciatella; Italian chicken and stars soup with spinach.

You could eat at Pasta del Giorno every day and not repeat the same dish for weeks, thanks to a broad array of pasta dishes and entrées. Personally, I could live on pasta alone, and so Pasta del Giorno is my “go to” place for some of the finest homemade pasta around, all at around $14.95 for a generous serving. Pappardelle Valtellina is prepared simply with sautéed porcini mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and garlic and remains one of my favorites along with taglierini Toscana. This thin, spaghettilike pasta is prepared with sautéed spinach, white beans and roasted garlic for a healthy, satisfying dish. Tortellini della Nonna are toothsome parcels of pasta topped with rich meat sauce, peas and mushrooms. Classic linguine alle vongole is made with juicy Little Neck clams in white or red sauce. Soak up all those aromatic juices with crusty bread. Your patience is rewarded as all dishes are made to order and served piping hot.

Savory meat and poultry options include petto di pollo alla Toscana, with sun-dried tomatoes, peas, cream and a touch of sherry ($15.95). Chicken Castello Romano is sautéed with artichoke hearts and mushrooms in a light brown sauce or try chicken Caprese with tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella. Juicy pork chops are served as you like, but ours was a special of the night, pounded thin, breaded and gently fried until crisp, then topped with a fresh, fragrant salad to make a dish called “cappriciosa”. This is a perfect summer meal, satisfying, yet light. Ask about the fresh fish and seafood of the day. It’s June and soft shell crabs are in season. Eat every delicious morsel of these crabs prepared “almondine” style, sautéed with white wine. Fresh trout with balsamic sauce makes for a light summer meal. Jumbo shrimp scampi is hard to resist and all meat and fish entrées come with choice of roasted potato, pasta or vegetables.

Even the ”meat and potatoes” crowd will be sated here, with 100% organic and free range steak, cooked to order. Grilled veal chops are bone-in while the scaloppine of veal is fork-tender and sautéed with wild mushrooms and cognac. Indulge in juicy rack of lamb prepared with herbs and a sprinkling of salt.

The chef prepares desserts in house as well, with kudos for the creamy tres leches cake, Italian ricotta cheesecake, chocolate mousse cake, mango mousse and tartufo ice cream treat. A rich espresso or after dinner cordial puts the icing on the cake.

Enjoy lunch sized portions of many of their classic dishes from 11:45am till 4:00pm. Pasta del Giorno is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner Monday through Thursday until 11:00pm and until midnight on weekends. Dinner only is served on Sundays from 2-11pm. Reservations are strongly recommended on the weekends and a gift certificate to Pasta del Giorno makes the perfect gift for anyone. Business or private lunches and dinners can be arranged.

Consistently delicious Italian cuisine, expert service and a peaceful atmosphere make Pasta del Giorno a fabulous restaurant to visit, again and again. Bon appetito!

PASTA DEL GIORNO

70-49 Austin Street Forest Hills, NY 11375  718.261.1075

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