2012-02-29 / Restaurant of the Week


Ornella is a charming Italian trattoria in Astoria run by the Viterale Family. You’ll certainly find classic Italian dishes here, but you’ll also discover inventive, artfully prepared dishes created by owner Giuseppe, influenced by his native Cilento region of Italy and his years of experience in the restaurant business. The cozy dining room features hand painted murals of Italian streets named after his four children and the restaurant is named for his wife, Ornella. Tidy tables are dressed in crisp white linens with candlelight and soft Italian music fills the air, making this a very pleasant place for a quiet meal. The service is very attentive and the prices are within reach to all.

Start with a glass of wine and nibble on the crispy bruschetta that are brought to your table while you review the menu. Hot and cold antipasti include Caprese salad of buttery, delicious mozzarella di bufala with sliced tomatoes, roasted red peppers and basil, drizzled with fine olive oil ($9). Carpaccio di manzo is paper-thin slices of cured beef with hearts of palm and shaved parmigiano cheese, kissed with truffle oil. Imported prosciutto di Parma is juxtaposed with sliced pears, gorgonzola cheese and walnuts. For our first course we enjoyed a house specialty of duck meatballs served in a puddle of sweet raisin sauce that perfectly complemented the rich flavor of these meatballs. Classic baked clams oreganata are full of crispy breadcrumbs and garlic in a lemony sauce, while the fried calamari are tender, crispy and golden, perfect for sharing. Ornella’s salads are beautifully composed of fresh ingredients such as beets, goat cheese, asparagus and cherry tomatoes, or the Belvedere salad with arugula, radicchio, endive, pears, gorgonzola cheese and walnuts with balsamic vinaigrette. Ask about the soup of the day.

Entrées at Ornella include handmade pasta, fish, chicken, and meat dishes, but I must say that the pasta here should not be missed. We had a “trio” of their signature homemade pasta dishes. Papardelle are wide, ribbon pasta topped with a rich sauce of pork ribs that has been slow cooked for hours. The meat is so tender, it falls off the bone and imparts intense flavor to the handmade pasta. A sprinkle of parmigiano cheese makes this dish divine. Next we sampled the homemade fusilli pasta with Bolognese sauce, another time-honored recipe that is savory and delicious. Finally, the homemade chestnut pasta made with imported chestnut flour was a real treat, topped with creamy pistachio sauce and truffle oil. Ornella’s gnocchi are lighter than air, served with creamy gorgonzola sauce, or ask for the Bolognese sauce if you prefer. Giuseppe pointed out that his customer is king, and if you don’t see what you want on the menu, just ask and your craving will be satisfied. He’ll also be happy to suggest the creation of the day. Classic pasta dishes include linguine alle vongole made with fresh, juicy little neck clams, lots of garlic and white wine ($15). Spaghetti carbonara gets its distinctive flavor from smoky pancetta, while penne pommodoro uses San Marzano tomatoes, garlic and basil for this traditional sauce. Ornella also serves gluten free pasta and whole wheat pasta on request, and there’s a complete vegetarian menu so all can enjoy a meal here.Only the freshest fish and seafood is purchased and prepared on the spot, such as juicy shrimp with olive oil, white wine and lemon sauce, or salmon primavera atop a bed of julienne vegetables. Swordfish Livornese is sautéed with olives, capers, onions and cherry tomatoes while grilled tuna is served rare with a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

Top quality meats are cut in-house and meat eaters will love the hefty veal chop, cooked to order with roasted garlic and rosemary, or the veal medallions with wild mushrooms and red wine reduction. Stuffed pork chops will satisfy the hungriest of appetites, layered with prosciutto, fontina cheese and mushrooms in a Madeira wine sauce. Classic bisteca Fiorentina is a massive, aged T-bone sprinkled with herbs and grilled to perfection, or try the grilled rack of lamb with roasted garlic.

Sweeten the palate with the house tiramisu, zesty lemon cake or chocolate cake and a cup of robust espresso or cappuccino. Take advantage of two special

evenings at Ornella. Monday night is “Steak Night” with $15 steak dishes of your choice and Thursday night “Pasta Night” where you can get a generous bowl of one of their delicious pastas for just $10. Sunday brunch is served from 11:30am to 2:30pm offering both American brunch items and Italian dishes. Ornella is conveniently located a few steps from the Ditmars Blvd. train station and orders can be picked up to go or ordered for free delivery through seamless web. Ornella is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner and Sunday brunch, with dinner service after 3:00. For classic Italian dishes inventive, regional ones, visit family-run Ornella Trattoria Italiana. Salute!

29-17 23rd Avenue  Astoria


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