2014-12-17 / Restaurant of the Week

La Vigna

You’ll eat like a celebrity and be treated like family at La Vigna Italian Restaurant where Chef Giuseppe Vitale works his magic in the kitchen making everything from scratch, including pasta, bread desserts, and his famous mozzarella. His son Anthony works the front of the house and effortlessly leads an expert team that includes Djuro, Raul, and Vincenzo, who floats between the bar and the comfortable, welcoming dining room. La Vigna serves the highest quality Italian regional cuisine and fabulous wines at affordable prices. The service and dining experience, however, is priceless.

Indeed the cozy dining room at La Vigna was decked for the holidays and all aglow with candles, white linens, sparkling mirrors, and twinkling lights. This neighborhood classic Italian restaurant was packed with happy, well-fed patrons, most of whom live right in the area. Believe it or not, one of the most loyal customers has a small plaque in the bar bearing his name. It is here where he begins every Friday night before moving over to his favorite table for his favorite food. Hank, as he is known, says “The food here is consistently excellent and you’re treated like someone special. Everyone gets a hug here and you feel like you’ve had a dining experience and not just a meal in a restaurant.” He also applauded the staff, most of whom have been there since the opening, some 12 years ago.

You can’t visit La Vigna without trying Giuseppe’s handmade mozzarella. This buttery cheese just melts in your mouth and is served with juicy tomatoes, roasted red peppers and basil leaves ($9.50). An array of healthy, colorful, grilled vegetables is served with creamy goat cheese, then drizzled with fine olive oil. Tender, sweet crab cakes are gently pan fried until golden and served on a bed of greens with homemade tartar sauce. Fresh clams and mussels are served in a garlicky white wine sauce or tomato broth and you’ll use the warm, crusty bread to soak up all those delicious juices. Can’t decide? Try the hot antipasto platter for two or more that includes fluffy eggplant rollatini, crispy baked clams, mussels and shrimp. There are also nightly specials that make choosing even more difficult. We tried the exceptionally tender grilled octopus and deemed it the best ever. The grilled asparagus special was another big hit, while the winter pear salad or warm spinach salad are great options too. Each day there are house made soups such as pasta e fagioli or stracciatella soup to warm your soul.

La Vigna’s signature pasta dishes taste like Italy with their perfect, handmade flavor and texture. My favorite is the cavatelli with sautéed zucchini, homemade sausage, and basil. Ravioli are tender pillows of pasta filled with eggplant and ricotta topped with tomato basil sauce, or a number of inventive fillings that change daily and seasonally. Bucatini all’Amatriciana is famous for its light tomato sauce spiked with smoky pancetta bacon. Orecchiete pasta are topped with broccoli rabe and that delicious sausage. The special, toothsome risotto is made with sweet crabmeat, arugula and Parmigiano cheese or with a rich rabbit ragu and Parmigiano cheese for a wintery treat. The pasta special that night was lasagna made with layers of pasta, cheese, and ground beef for some Italian style comfort.

La Vigna does a fine job with fresh fish and seafood. Flaky fillet of tilapia is stuffed with spinach and goat cheese in white wine sauce ($20.50). The red snapper fillet is prepared in a potato crust with rosemary, white wine, and butter sauce. Salmon is pan seared with a Dijon mustard sauce and all fish entrées are served with pasta or potatoes and vegetables.

Bocconcini di pollo is fork-tender chicken breast, breaded and stuffed with prosciutto, mozzarella, and olives or you can order classic chicken marsala or chicken scarpariello with sausage, potato and hot peppers. Lamb ossobuco is a fine winter treat. This hefty lamb shank is cooked for hours and served with the reduced sauce over creamy risotto. Dig into juicy filet mignon, cooked to order and served with peppercorn brandy cream sauce or one of the chef’s specials such as beef braciole or braised short ribs.

Save room for homemade desserts that include fluffy tiramisu, cannolis, Italian cheesecake, Nutella cake, chocolate mousse or apple strudel. Finish up with a digestivo such as Frangelico, Amaretto, or Sambuca and a steaming cup of espresso or coffee.

La Vigna Italian Restaurant is open six days a week for a fabulous lunch or dinner (closed Monday). Parking is easy on Metropolitan Avenue or you can valet park. LaVigna will be open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with some very special entrees to choose among for your family dining pleasure. Call now to reserve your place and it’s not too early to reserve for Valentine’s Day. La Vigna offers a singular, memorable dining experience serving great food, wine and the best service around. Salut!

100-11 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills  718.268.4264

www.lavignany.com

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