2012-11-07 / Restaurant of the Week

La Bottega Italian Gourmet

By Teresa Barile

La Bottega offers a surprising dining option for folks in the neighborhood. Opened just one month ago, La Bottega serves exceptionally delicious entrées, salads, Panini, desserts and more, complemented by a nice selection of wines and beers, both imported and domestic. Owners Sal LoPinto and Strato Iakavou wish to welcome families, friends and couples to their brand new establishment, and plan to open more locations in the near future. The lovely décor incorporates rich, distressed wood, exposed brick and amber-colored walls illuminated by soft lighting, creating a very cozy and comfortable environment. The banquette in the rear features clever little niches in the wall that hold charming candles that make a nice tableau.

Joe, the handsome and friendly manager, has years of experience in the restaurant business and lends his expertise to La Bottega Italian Gourmet, where only the freshest ingredients are purchased each day including fish, meat, vegetables, fantastic bread and coffee. He got us started right away with one of their fresh, perfectly composed salads. La Bottega has 28 impressive salads on the menu and this was the “Bietole” which is Italian for beets. These ruby red beets rested on mixed greens and tossed with sweet, roasted corn, crunchy toasted walnuts, tomatoes and crumbled goat cheese for the perfect autumn salad ($8.75). The honey Dijon dressing was presented on the side, to be added as you like. The pollo e guacamole salad is one of the most popular, made with tender, grilled chicken, mixed greens, Gaeta olives, red onion, carrots and toasted almonds with balsamic dressing. Other salads are topped with roasted turkey, steak, salmon, or grilled shrimp so one of these could be a meal alone, or shared by two as a first course or side dish. The chef made one of his special appetizers called mozzarella in carozza…in a carriage, per se, which is fried between slices of bread and served with zesty tomato sauce. Fried calamari are tender and crispy, and the baked clams are exceptionally fresh, baked until the breadcrumbs on top are golden and crispy ($9.75). Order the “Salumeria” and enjoy cuts of Italian cold cuts, cheeses, olives and roasted peppers, scooped up with some of their fantastic bread. Everyone loves sharing a plate of bruschetta (pronounced broo- SKEH-tah, by the way) and with nine types of bruschetta, you’ll find your favorite. Some are topped with mozzarella and basil, shrimp, prosciutto and tomato, or goat cheese, raisins and walnuts. For $10, you can share a tasting of six different ones to start your family dinner.

La Bottega Italian Gourmet has 60 panini to choose among….yes 60! Each is perfectly constructed on fabulous ciabatta, whole wheat, rustic hero or krispina bread. There are several gluten-free items on the menu, as well as mini panini for kids, so you’re not wasting food. Our kind server suggested we try the “Hogans” Panini, which is one of the most popular. The combination of tender, grilled chicken breast, marinated artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, buttery mozzarella, and basil pesto on warm, toasted ciabatta makes my mouth water now, just thinking about it. Other panini are made with roasted turkey, shrimp, Italian cured meats, pork, beef, and yes, vegetables too, for those eschewing meat. Several visits will be required to begin to explore the possibilities, but fortunately, they will deliver to your home or office, making it easier to find your favorite.

La Bottega Italian Gourmet is not just sandwiches…they have an impressive variety of pastas and entrees as well. Orechiette are ear-shaped pasta prepared with sautéed broccoli rabe, garlic and fine olive oil. Linguine with shrimp and cherry tomatoes is another popular item, with a touch of pesto and cream. Fusilli is mixed with sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, zucchini and fresh mozzarella for a meatless dish.

From the entrees, we dove into the salmon with white wine, which I have to point out, was one of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever had. Supremely fresh, flaky and perfectly prepared with lemon and white wine, and sun-dried tomatoes ($19.50). You can also order the salmon with a creamy Dijon mustard sauce. Pollo mozzarella is layered with fresh mozzarella, served with broccoli rabe in lemon and white wine sauce. Pollo al funghi is sautéed with mushrooms and sweet Marsala wine. All dishes are generously sized, prepared to order, and served piping hot on sparkling white dishes.

La Bottega Italian Gourmet is proud to offer Segifreddo coffee, one of the finest around. These rich espresso beans make the most delicious cups of espresso, cappuccino, lattes, frappes and more. Even the decaf version meets my coffee standards! For dessert, try the house made tiramisu which is creamy and luscious, Italian cheesecake, or their crunchy cannolis, filled on the spot. Stop in for a cup or cone of their yummy gelato too.

La Bottega will happily cater your business function or family party. They are open seven days a week from 11am to 10pm on weekdays and until 11pm on weekends. They have fast, free delivery and the service in the restaurant is efficient and friendly.

For great Italian Panini, salads, pasta, entrées, desserts, coffee and more, visit La Bottega Italian Gourmet.

40-17 30th Avenue
Astoria  718.728.8620

www.LaBottegaAstoria.com

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