2015-06-03 / Restaurant of the Week

GASTROTECA

Gastroteca is a culinary experience for all, located on the site of the former Locale restaurant. Gastroteca has it all: a chic, corner location, with a glass façade, outdoor seating, fabulous food, wine, desserts, and a Happy Hour. Run by executive chef and owner, John Parlatore, Gastroteca is one of my favorite spots in Astoria, due to its consistently delicious modern Italian and American cuisine all at reasonable prices.

Gastroteca’s menu changes seasonally and thanks to Parlatore and chef de cuisine Ricardo Llerena, the early summer menu featured now will transport you to the Italian Mediterranean coast from where many dishes get their inspiration. To dive into that concept, I started with a cocktail aptly named “Amalfi coast,” a refreshing concoction of pear vodka, liqueur, cucumber and a splash of soda. “Italian Ice Tea” mixes rhubarb tea, Martini rosso, ginger ale, and mint for another refreshing cocktail. I also recommend the “Sophia Loren” or “La Dolce Vita,” especially if you’re dining al fresco at the breezy tables on this quiet corner.

The sophisticated interior features cozy tables for romantic dining as well as a separate lounge area with plush sofas on the second level, just above the dining room. The roughhewn bar is backed by a white brick wall on which classic Italian films are projected with subtitles, so as not to interfere with your conversation. Feel free to come in just for a cocktail, glass of wine and conversation along with some of their signature ‘crostini.’ These toasted rounds of crusty bread are topped with ricotta, hazelnut, and honey, or avocado, basil, and pancetta, or eggplant caponata and salami, to name a few. These starters are perfect for sharing and you can get a combination of three varieties for $10.

Antipasti at Gastroteca are expertly prepared, beautifully presented, and sized for sharing. We loved the shaved Brussel sprout salad, topped with a peppercorn dressing and chopped hazelnuts, and the creamy Buratta mozzarella, served with spring vegetables ($12). Veal meatballs are made from a secret family recipe and you won’t care how they’re made because you’ll be too busy enjoying these meaty morsels of goodness with spicy tomato sauce ($12). Flash fried calamari are impossibly crisp, as are the crispy shrimp, served with garlic aioli, and spring slaw.

“Primi piatti,” or first plates include ten choices of pasta and risotto, with two evening specials that were too good to pass up. Lemon-infused linguine was topped with the freshest shrimp, clams, cherry tomatoes and peas for flavors that brought me back to my ancestral home on the Amalfi coast. My companion’s crispy gnocchi had me reaching over for a taste of this unique, handmade spinach gnocchi that’s quickly pan-fried to make it a little crisp on the outside, while tender and light inside. The fragrant pesto sauce and ricotta salata complimented the gnocchi perfectly and made for a beautiful dish ($16). Toothsome cavatelli are combined with lamb sausage, rapini (bitter broccoli), garlic and mint pesto for another inspired dish ($17).

“Secondi” include the best choices in meat, chicken, and fresh fish with kudos for the bronzino grilled and served with salsa verde, beans and pancetta ($19). Chicken roasted with rosemary is the ultimate comfort food and the ribeye steak comes with arugula radicchio salad and crispy parmesan potatoes. There is a great selection of white and red wines, as well as craft beers to accompany your meal. There are also many vegetarian options to choose among.

It’s worth mentioning the extra good service at Gastroteca delivered by Anna, whose effervescence is matched only by her love of the food served here. She kindly brought us two fantastic desserts, including the dark chocolate cake, served warm with homemade ice cream, and the cool, creamy coconut panna cotta. The menu teases you with pineapple ricotta cake, espresso pot de crème, and the requisite tiramisu, also made in house.

Gastroteca has a cool Happy Hour Monday to Friday from 4pm to 8pm offering beer for $3, wine and well drinks for $5. Weekend Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30am to 4:20pm, followed by dinner service. Weekday Brunch is served from 11:30am to 4:00pm, followed by dinner service from 5pm to 11pm. With fabulous modern Italian cuisine, great cocktails, wine, and dessert, Gastroteca is not just another meal out; it’s an experience.

33-02 34th Avenue • Astoria, NY
718.729.9080

www.gastrotecaastoria.com

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