2012-12-19 / Restaurant of the Week

Donato’s Italian Bistro

By Teresa Barile

Donato’s Italian Bistro opened just six months ago but comes with an impressive 16-year history of success at Donato’s in Woodside. The Donato Family brings their recipes for success and fine Italian cuisine for all to enjoy in Astoria. Pablo presides over the gorgeous dining room that features sandstone tiles, rustic wood floors, brick accents and soft lighting. This is a serene environment in which to enjoy an intimate dinner for two, dinner with friends, or a big family meal. Groups can be accommodated in the lovely space too. Outside, trees are festooned with holiday lights and the full bar inside features your favorite cocktails, beer and fine wines. Best of all, the prices are very affordable, and Donato’s Italian Bistro will be serving their delicious food on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, so there’s still time to make your holiday reservations.

We started with a glass of red wine and our lovely waitress brought us some crispy bruschetta to nibble on while we reviewed the menu. She also recited the evening’s specials: linguine alle vongole, chicken cappricciosa with artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes, trout piccata…decisions, decisions. We started with crispy baked clams, one of their most popular appetizers. These fresh, Little Neck clams were whole, not chopped, and topped with a garlicky, crispy bread crumb topping and drizzled with a heavenly sauce ($8). Shrimp in garlic sauce is another popular choice with plump shrimp and a sublime sauce that begs to be soaked up with the warm, crusty Italian bread brought to your table. Grilled baby octopus is another treat, served over mixed greens, drizzled with fine olive oil and balsamic vinegar, if you wish. Zuppa di mussels or clams are cooked in an aromatic broth of wine and tomato that’s intoxicating ($9.00). Pasta e fagioli soup, minestrone and lentil are all made from scratch and taste even better with a sprinkle of parmigiano cheese on top.

Cold appetizers include an array of bright, colorful salads, classic Caprese salad of buttery mozzarella, tomato and basil leaves, or a cold antipasto platter with prosciutto, salami, cheeses, Next we shared a pasta dish as our first course and were delighted with Donato’s tortellini Bolognese. This rich, meaty sauce was perhaps the best I’ve ever had, perfectly seasoned and nestled in the tender tortellini, sprinkled with parmigiano. Buonissimo! We’re told the penne alla vodka is outstanding too, but why not try something more authentic, such as cheese ravioli, pasta with broccoli, olive oil and garlic, or baked lasagna or ziti, all made in the bustling kitchen. Donato’s serves whole wheat penne and linguini with your choice of sauces: filetto, marinara, or garlic and oil, for those avoiding meat.

Main courses include chicken, veal, steak and fantastic fish. Since the Bolognese sauce was so meaty, we opted for a supremely fresh, delicate fillet of trout sautéed simply, yet superbly, in lemon, white wine and capers. Fillet of sole francese or almondine are light and tasty options as well. You can order juicy shrimp in a number of ways including scampi style, francese, parmigiana, marinara or grilled with lemon and olive oil.

Tender chicken or veal cutlets are prepared with light, lemony sauces or rolled up with spinach, mozzarella and prosciutto as in the chicken or veal rollatini, dressed in a light brown sauce ($12.95). The signature dish chicken Donato is made with chunks of boneless chicken, sausage and sliced potatoes, sautéed in white wine for a fabulous, satisfying meal. Chicken scarpariello is another popular item, done to perfection here. You’ll even find hefty steak and pork chops here, grilled to order and all meat and fish entrees are served with incredibly crispy, ovenroasted potatoes and a healthy blend of vegetables.

Do save room for dessert or at least share one of the many house made confections, including Italian cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake, apple pie a la mode with a flaky crust, creamy tiramisu, and cannolis. There are ice cream treats such as tortoni and spumoni that the kids will love. Make your holiday reservations at Donato’s Italian Bistro where you’ll be treated like family and enjoy great Italian cuisine, just like nonna’s. They’ll be open for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with a la carte dining or prix fixe menus. Call for more details and reservations. Visit Donato’s Italian Bistro for delicious Italian food served by friendly staff in a lovely setting, right here in the neighborhood. Free delivery. Buon appetito! Donato’s Italian Bistro

34-02 Broadway, Astoria

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