Ratings: F|26 D|14 S|24
"Just ask" and "they'll make any dish, any way you like it" at this "have-it-your-way" Astoria Italian where the cooking's "exceptional", the tuxedo-clad servers "professional" and the decor "so retro, it's fun"; alright, it's "costly" for Queens yet is "always full", because this "old classic never gets old."
Dining Deals: Piccola Venezia. CBS 2’s Tony Tantillo checks out a spot where three generations have been serving up fresh and delicious dishes. It’s a dining deal that’s an authentic taste of Northern Italy.
In visiting these restaurants, I wasn't expecting the verdant, seasonal glories of the Greenmarkets. But what about full-bodied flavor? Or the special mouth feel of house-made pasta?
I found both at Piccola Venezia, my favorite of the group. This restaurant, which opened in 1973, doesn't have quite as much Old World charm as Bamonte's. But it too has bow-tied waiters, who wear red instead of black jackets, and white tablecloths. Beside many tables hang shiny plaques emblazoned with cherished customers' names. We found ourselves in Tony Bennett Corner.
Ringlets of fried calamari had crunchy outsides and bouncy insides. The Caesar salad was beautifully dressed, each crisp leaf carrying the same measure of salty, cheesy bliss. A veal chop was skirted with the right amount of fat and was tender at the bone.
If it’s a more formal, proper experience you seek, Del Posto and Alto are for you. The food at Piccola Venezia isn’t in the same league, but if you’re after a certain kind of red-sauce outer-borough cliché, it’s the best of the bunch I’ve tried. And if you’re on the hunt for pizza, I’ve lofted suggestions along those lines, too.
One of the joys of Piccola Venezia is how well it does what you might dismiss as the kind of hokey dishes you find at restaurants like TGI Friday’s. Don’t overlook them. In their way, they speak to the diligence of this restaurant’s kitchen, whether it’s preparing signature dishes or stereotypical ones. In my article I mention the fried calamari. Just as good, when I ate there, was the fried zucchini, the strips of which weren’t oily in the least.
Even if Astoria is not threaded by canals, Piccolo Venezia will make you think of Venice– or at least of its cuisine. Since 1973 this restaurant has been pleasing diners with its ample menu, which emphasizes Northern Italian fare. There's also a long list of daily specials to make your decision more challenging. And if you still can't anything to suit your fancy, the kitchen honors special requests. Piccole Venezia welcomes children, and will happily tailor meals to picky eats (i.e., half portions or pasta without sauce). The amiable manager greets guests as if they were eating in his home. You may arrive a stranger, but you'll leave feeling like part of a big Italian family.
Excellent food emphasizing Northern Italian cooking. This three-decade-old establishment has some of the best Italian food served anywhere. While it has a wide selection of the usual entrees, including pastas, fish, and veal its preparation of even 'standard' dishes is creative, visually appealing and delicious. The gnocchi, tiny light potato dumplings, covered with a piquant, creamy gorgonzola sauce is delightful; as is the pasta fusi alla grappa, bowtie-shaped pasta with a sauce of mushrooms, grappa, and parmigiano. The soup pasta e fagioli is a classic; the veal dishes, such as on the bone veal chop, are quite good; but the duck in a rich Grand Marnier sauce is outstanding. the desserts are delectable. The flan-like panna cotta is smooth creamy and light; the pistachio canoli is an inspired creation. All the desserts are artfully presented. Attentive service from a caring, helpful staff. The two dinning rooms are comfortable, subdued, and relatively quiet.