2011-07-13 / Restaurant of the Week

DONATO’S RESTAURANT AND PIZZA

The relaxing, softly lit, convivial atmosphere is more than appealing enough to invite you in, but it’s the food at this Woodside corner Italian restaurant that makes Donato’s a winner. On any night you can expect a full house enjoying abundant plates of family recipe Italian dishes served in a homey, comfortable dining room or outside on the patio of this corner eatery.

Owner Pablo, brother Osvaldo, and the entire well-dressed staff make you feel very welcome as they tend to your every request with a smile. Have them uncork a bottle of wine for you while you decide among the dozens of tempting menu items, starting with their fabulous hot and cold antipasti and salads. We delighted in our choice of baked clams, prepared with a golden bread crumb topping with lots of delicious garlic and white wine sauce that we swiftly swept up with bread. Crab cakes are sweet and filling and mildly seasoned and the zuppa di mussels or clams are swimming in a heavenly broth that you’ll also want to soak up. Few can resist their tender, crunchy rings of fried calamari served with zesty marinara sauce, or their signature eggplant rollatini, filled with light and fluffy ricotta. If you can’t decide, order the hot antipasto platter and have a sampling of shrimp, clams, stuffed mushrooms and eggplant rollatini for both to share ($9.50). On the cold side, the seafood salad reminds me of the one my grandmother would make on Christmas Eve, replete with calamari, shrimp, mussels and crab meat in a vinaigrette dressing. A variety of freshly tossed salads makes an excellent first course or side dish for the table. We tried the special salad of the evening composed of baby spinach, tomato, cucumber and chunks of feta cheese. Classic Caprese salad with sliced fresh mozzarella and beefsteak tomatoes dotted with basil leaves speaks of summer.

Italian tradition would have you eat a pasta course first, before your meat or fish entrée. Feel free to share an order of pasta with your dining companion or enjoy one of their many dishes as your main course. With over a dozen choices, even the kids will find their favorite, such as classic spaghetti and homemade meatballs or ravioli. Linguine alla Pablo is sautéed with fresh broccoli, anchovies, olives, capers, chunks of chicken and extra virgin olive oil ($11.95). Treat yourself to fettuccine with creamy Alfredo sauce or tortellini with meaty Bolognese sauce.

“Any way you like it,” is Pablo’s motto, and so I ordered their signature dish “Chicken alla Donato” made with sautéed chicken breast, sausage and sliced potatoes, but requested hot sausage in lieu of sweet, and a helping of hot cherry peppers. The dish was just as I requested and so delicious, I enjoyed the rest of the generous portion the next day for lunch. Chicken scarpariello in its white wine and garlic sauce is a popular dish, as are classic chicken francese in buttery lemon and white wine sauce ($12.95). Chicken rollatini is layered with spinach, mozzarella and sautéed in a light brown sauce ($14.95).

My friend requested the fish special of the evening which was a beautifully presented swordfish fillet gently sautéed with halved cherry tomatoes, capers and lemony white wine sauce that was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate and I just had to try some for myself… buonissimo. Plump, juicy sea scallops were prepared oreganata style with white wine, garlic, lemon and crispy bread crumbs. Of course there are nearly two dozen fish and seafood dishes on the regular menu, each made with the freshest ingredients and cooked to order. Shrimp marinara is prepared with chopped tomatoes, garlic and herbs, served with pasta or salad, as you wish. Flaky fillet of sole is pan fried with Pernod liqueur and orange sauce for a unique taste treat, or go for classic sole almondine. All meat and seafood dishes are served with your choice of pasta, salad or French fried potatoes.

Donato’s is proud to host a very special night of live music along with their fabulous food. Come on Thursday, July 28 when “Big Mike and Johnny LaLa” will be singing the sounds of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s from 7:00 to 9:00pm. I’ve already made my reservation and you should too, for this unique event, accompanied by the great food at Donato’s.

Make any night a special occasion or celebrate one of life’s occasions by bringing your whole family for a party of up to 30 people and have a home style meal without all the work of doing it yourself. During the day, a reasonable prix fixe lunch costs only $12.50 and includes soup or salad, one pasta, meat or fish entrée, coffee and choice of dessert (dine in only). I always look forward to a visit to Donato’s where you just feel good, inside and out, in this warm, friendly restaurant with lovely outdoor seating. Enjoy an al fresco meal and feel like you’ve taken a trip to Italy, right here in Woodside. Buon appetito! 

DONATO’S RESTAURANT AND PIZZA

50-22 39th Avenue, Woodside 718.507.4591  www.donatospol.com

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