2017-01-25 / Restaurant of the Week

San Marco Ristorante

San Marco Ristorante opened for New Year’s Eve on the site of Ponticello, which enjoyed more than 40 years of success on Broadway in Astoria. Now it’s San Marco’s turn to delight us with Northern Italian cuisine, as prepared by Chef Mattia who hails from Venice. At San Marco, you’ll find regional dishes from Venice and beyond, all made from scratch with fine ingredients. This is not your red sauce, run-of-the mill Italian restaurant. Luxuriate in the serene dining room with its warm décor accented by soft lighting, tasteful artwork, and live piano music and a singer, performing softly while you dine. San Marco has three separate dining rooms to host your private party, engagement, anniversary, shower, or even a small wedding. Best of all, San Marco Ristorante will make your Valentine’s Day extra special with fine wine, excellent food, service, and romantic ambience.

Owners Ben, Prel and Chef Mattia head up a team led by General Manager Saverio, who comes from Rome with four generations in the restaurant business behind him. The result is an authentic Italian experience with dishes you don’t normally see on a menu. After settling in with a fine cocktail from the bar, or a glass of full-bodied red wine, you’ll want to nibble on warm-from-the-oven flatbread topped with your choice of mushrooms and truffle cream, mozzarella, sausage, broccoli rabe and cherry tomatoes, or Parma prosciutto, parmigiana, and arugula. These generously sized flat breads are great for sharing among 2 to 4 people and go well with one of their savory appetizers, such as pan seared scallops with arugula salad and light vinaigrette dressing. These scallops were tender and juicy, with a light caramelized crust. Next, we tried a purely Venetian dish of pan seared calf’s liver with red onions and crispy triangles of polenta. Forget what you think about liver. These thin, tender slices of liver tasted like fine quality beef, in a delicate sauce to soak up with crisp polenta, and plenty for sharing ($12). Arancini come from Sicily; Arborio rice balls scented with saffron and filled with zucchini, mozzarella, and tomato with a golden crust that makes them so elegant and delectable ($10). We also enjoyed the salmon tartar; diced, raw, sushi-grade salmon with bright, zesty lemon and avocado over mixed greens. Mixed, fried seafood is a popular starter at San Marco with a combination of calamari, shrimp, and flaky white fish breaded and lightly fried till crisp and golden, served with two types of sauce. The soup of the day was classic pasta e fagioli, and there are five salads to choose among, each fresh, vibrant, and nicely composed.

Proper Italian meals continue with a pasta course and San Marco’s pastas are all made by hand, lighter than air, and cooked al dente. Ravioli della casa are heavenly pillows of goodness, filled with fluffy ricotta and spinach, served with a drizzle of butter and sage sauce ($15). Orecchiete “little ears” are tossed with broccoli rabe, sausage, and basil pesto sauce for one of my favorite dishes. Pappardelle ribbon pasta are topped with a rich, meaty Bolognese sauce, and the special pasta of the night offered a creamy gorgonzola sauce over papparedelle with walnuts and pears. Classic carbonara sauce over tagliatelle has a creamy, smoky taste from pancetta, and the fresh clam sauce is savory and juicy over fettuccine. Northern style lasagna Emiliana gets a twist with layers of veal ragu and béchamel sauce for a hearty, soul-warming dish. Toothsome risotto is prepared with a mélange of seafood, or mixed mushrooms, or saffron and asparagus. All pasta dishes can be shared if you wish, so you’ll have room for your ‘secondo’ or second dish.

Ten perfectly chosen entrées cover the best of fish, chicken, and meat. From the classic breaded veal cutlet “Milanese” and veal scalloppine with lemon, to the rib-eye steak, there is something for everyone at San Marco. Tender grilled lamb chops are served with homemade mint sauce, mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. Free range chicken breast is served with broccoli rabe, olives, and cherry tomatoes for a light and healthy dish. We tucked into a gorgeous filet mignon, perfectly cooked and supremely tender, served with mashed potatoes and asparagus or spinach. I hear the 18-ounce, bone-in rib eye steak is a winner, as is the grilled sirloin for your ‘meat and potatoes’ lover. From the sea comes pan seared salmon over eggplant caponata with lemon and white wine sauce. Your waiter will tell you about other meat and fish specials of the evening and the best wines to pair with them.

You’ll also want to save room for the chef’s house made desserts, with kudos for the tiramisu, which is a sweet creation invented in Venice, meaning “pick me up” in Italian, thanks to the infusion of espresso in the pastry. There’s also crème caramel, ricotta cheesecake, and warm chocolate soufflé along with steaming espresso and after dinner liqueurs to end the perfect meal.

Make San Marco Ristorante your “trip to Italy” right here in Astoria, and make your reservations now for a romantic Valentine’s Day. Spring is right around the corner and with it, come graduations, anniversaries, and showers to celebrate here in the private dining rooms. The food, wine, and service are excellent at San Marco and any meal here is a treat. They’re open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, from noon to 11pm on weeknights and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. The R train is right outside too and there’s valet parking. Salute!

46-11 Broadway  Astoria


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