2014-03-19 / Restaurant of the Week


For 19 years, El Olivo has been offering freshly prepared Spanish cuisine in the heart of Astoria. El

Olivo is also well-known for mixing up the best Sangria and Margaritas, according to Google reviews and one famous New York newspaper. I would agree that the margaritas are excellent because they’re made with fresh lime and other fruit juices, not bar mix, served in pretty glasses with or without salt. The sangria comes in red and white varieties with lots of chopped fruit. These magic concoctions turn any hour into a Happy Hour, but while you’re at the bar, enjoy some classic tapas too before settling into dinner.

The expert chef at El Olivo interprets the cuisine of Galicia, in northwestern Spain, as well as from other regions of Spain and the continent itself. Start with one of the many appetizers, or “tapas”, as they are known throughout Spain. Spanish sausage called ‘chorizo’ is grilled and sliced thin, and the stuffed mushrooms are bite-sized and filled with seasoned breadcrumbs. For something really special, try the pulpo El Olivo, a warm stew of tender octopus, prepared in a light tomato and bell pepper sauce with lots of garlic, perfect for soaking up with a crust of bread, or pulpo Gallega, prepared simply with smoked Spanish pimento. Fresh mussels were prepared for us in a heavenly broth made with white wine and garlic. Tender shrimp sautéed in garlic sauce is an aromatic treat, while the Galician soup is replete with seafood and mild spices, perfect on the last chilly days of winter.

With the Lenten season upon us, El Olivo continues to prepare and serve the freshest fish and seafood from the market’s catch. The ever-hospitable owner of El Olivo, Riccardo Agayo, says that one of the most popular fish dishes is fillet of sole ala alcaparra; which is prepared with a lemony sauce laced with Spanish capers. The sole is white and tender and the tangy sauce makes it melt in your mouth ($21.25). This dish can be prepared with a red snapper fillet or fresh Atlantic salmon fillet. Red snapper pescadora is cooked in a light tomato sauce with clams and mussels. Plump shrimp are served in a number of delectable ways with green sauce, spicy diablo sauce, Creole style or just simply grilled.

Possibly the most famous and popular dish of Spain is called paella, pronounced “pi-ay-a”. Cooked in a heavy metal pot, this traditional dish combines chicken, sausage and seafood with lots of saffron-infused rice and peas for a unique and satisfying meal. El Olivo makes a wonderful paella Valenciana ($21.95 for a very generous serving). Heaped atop the rice, you’ll find tender chunks of chicken, Spanish sausage, and the freshest seafood, including mussels, clams, scallops and shrimp. For a couple of dollars more, you can add lobster to this heavenly combination and all entrees can be prepared for two people at a nominal charge. The well-dressed, professional waiters serve your food from a cart brought to your table, and attend to your every request quickly and courteously.

El Olivo has excellent meats also. My companion tucked into a juicy, tender skirt steak that was perfectly cooked and served with potatoes and fresh, sautéed vegetables. Filet mignon, is broiled straight up or topped with woodsy mushroom sauce. There are a couple of sautéed veal dishes and a gorgeous rack of baby lamb, cooked to a rosy pink finish.

Finish your meal with a glass of port, a traditional after dinner wine from Spain and some flan, a baked custard with a sweet caramelized sugar glaze or a slice of apple pear tart with a scoop of vanilla ice cream imported from Spain. A number of ice cream and specialty desserts are described in detail on the menu, and a rich cup of coffee, perhaps spiked with Kahlua or Bailey’s.

There’s is an economical lunch special served here with smaller portions of their best dishes at a fixed price of just $15.50 plus tax and tip, Monday to Friday. El Olivo offers the best in Spanish cuisine, not-to-be-missed margaritas and sangria, excellent service, and reasonable prices. They’re open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, with take out service available. Make reservations for your next family or business function at El Olivo, where life is a fiesta!

21-15 31st Street
Astoria, NY  718.932.4040

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