2012-08-15 / Restaurant of the Week

L’ITALIANO TRATTORIA

Authentic Italian and Sicilian Cuisine

L’Italiano Trattoria is the corner Italian restaurant that locals love, and with good reason. Owners Grace and Joe Lupo started this labor of love 10 years ago and offer authentic Italian and Sicilian dishes made with Grace’s heart and soul using family recipes from her native Sicily. Everything is made from scratch, including the bread and dough for their fabulous brick oven pizza. Grace even holds cooking classes right in her kitchen each Saturday for adults and children so you can learn how to make some of her favorite dishes. The cool Mediterranean dining room features tile floors, sleek wood tables, comfortable chairs and soft lighting. The service is very friendly and Grace and Joe come out frequently to greet all their customers, most of whom are regulars, and keep coming back from near and far.

We started with a beautiful array of seafood appetizers, served to us on a ceramic platter shaped like a fish. Delicious clams oreganato are prepared with crispy breadcrumbs and broiled to a golden finish. The tender scallops and plump shrimp were prepared the same way and served alongside tender strips of grilled calamari, all served on a bed of fresh, fragrant arugula, grape tomatoes and a sprinkling of raisins, pignoli nuts and orange slices, a la Siciliana. Tender calamari are also served as fried, crispy rings with house made sauce for dipping. Beefy portobello mushrooms come topped with grilled vegetables and mozzarella ($10). Nothing says summer like a Caprese salad. This classic Italian appetizer is best eaten now with fresh tomatoes on hand, buttery slices of mozzarella and fragrant basil leaves ($9). Cool tre colori salad tosses radicchio, endive and arugula with balsamic dressing, or try the Sicilian salad composed of garden-fresh green beans, potatoes and tomatoes. All of L’Italiano Trattoria’s antipasti are generously sized and great to share.

In Italy, the “primo piatto” or first plate, is your pasta course. L’Italiano has fabulous pasta dishes that could be your entrée alone, or shared by two as a first course. Spaghetti alle vongole is made with fresh, sweet clams prepared in either a red or white sauce. Grace’s pappardelle with diced eggplant, tomatoes and basil is one of her favorite summer time dishes, as is the pasta primavera with a mélange of fresh vegetables in garlic and olive oil ($13). Farfalle are bowtie pasta tossed with sautéed sausage, mushroom and tomato with a splash of cream for a hearty dish. One of my favorites is ziti with broccoli rabe and sausage and L’Italiano makes it great here. Fresh pasta is rolled out here in the kitchen to create tender pillows of ravioli di formaggio, or ravioli stuffed with butternut squash, when in season. Gnocchi Bolognese are toothsome pasta dumplings topped with a rich, meaty sauce that needs just a sprinkle of parmigiano and a big appetite to enjoy. There are also several specials each night so check with your server for dishes like squid ink pasta and shrimp in spicy tomato sauce, or grilled tuna steak.

‘Secondi’ plates consist of meat, poultry and fish and L’Italiano Trattoria has great choices such as classic chicken Francese with its delicate egg batter and white wine sauce or chicken marsala with sliced mushrooms and sweet marsala wine. Saltimbocca alla Romana is tender veal cutlets topped with prosciutto, rolled and sautéed with white wine and sage leaves. Salmon piccata is a fresh fillet of salmon sautéed with lemon, capers, and white wine sauce. Sole oreganata is light, flaky fish broiled with crunchy breadcrumbs and white wine sauce. From the grill, choose a light dinner of grilled shrimp and scallops with a side of grilled vegetables. A hefty shell steak sizzles to order and all these entrées are served with your choice of pasta or vegetables.

L’Italiano Trattoria makes great brick oven pizza using homemade dough and sauce. We saw a 12” pie going past and could smell the fragrant arugula, mozzarella and tomato on top of the “Grace pizza”, as it is her personal favorite. The Capricciosa pizza is topped with mozzarella, tomato, savory ham, mushrooms and artichokes.

L’Italiano Trattoria will be closed for a brief respite from August 13-19 and will re-open with all their favorite dishes. In September a very popular “Sicilian Night” will take place. Enjoy a prix fixe menu and traditional Sicilian dishes from Palermo such as chick pea fritters, whole, grilled sardines, pasta with cauliflower, saffron and raisins and much more. This event is reservation only and includes appetizer, pasta, main course, dessert, wine, and music for $65. Please call to reserve your spot at this annual event.

For dessert, you must try one of Grace’s creations such as her Italian cheesecake, made with light, fluffy ricotta, American cheesecake, light-as-a-cloud tiramisu, chocolate cannoli, panna cotta, chocolate lava cake or cool, refreshing gelato and sorbet.

Visit L’Italiano Trattoria for authentic Italian and Sicilian dishes. Catering is available and cooking classes are held on Saturdays at noon. Don’t forget Sicilian Night in September. Call for details and reservations.

216-01 Horace Harding Expwy
Bayside  718.224.2536

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