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Tasty Italian in Astoria

While I build up the funds for L'Ilconctro, I want to take my girlfriend out somewhere in Astoria for tasty and somewhat inexpensive Italian. I've been to Sac's and think it's over-rated, and the Brick Cafe is alright.Need some help...

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  1. try Portobello in between Ditmars & 23rd Avenue around 45th Street, I think, not totally sure. It's in a strip mall. Nothing fancy, pizza up front, but great pasta dishes. i've never had anything but pasta, but enjoyed them all.

    1 Reply
    1. re: meb903

      Their lemon chicken is yummy, as are the rice balls and every pasta dish I've ever ordered.

    2. Last Stop- not even a block from L'Incontro, right at the Ditmars subway stop. Also nothing fancy, but great tasting food, huge portions (plan to take some home), and very easy on the wallet.

      1 Reply
      1. re: erink

        I echo that. Last Stop is wonderful and they're super nice.

      2. Brick Cafe isn't really Italian, though their food is Italian influenced. It is very good though, but not that much cheaper than L'Incontro.

        The pasta at Pasta Fina on Steinway near 30th ave is decent and very cheap, though I did have a bad experience with cleanliness there once so I haven't been back since.

        1. Try Angelos on 30th Ave on 49th Street. Don't expect much from the decor but the food is great and inexpensive. Most nights they have an accordian player, which, in itself is very entertaining. The host Angelo is very friendly and loves to chat. Def worth a visit.

          1. How about Rudar SC, the Istrian Soccer Club? They do nice gnocchi. It's Italianate...

            1. You don't want to go to L'Incontro. Save your money for something else.

              1. L'incontro is truly revolting. They think it's hot to put mascarpone on everything, including shrimp. the place is noisy with lousy service and ridiculous food. It looks like a Greek Diner on acid...check out the grotesque murals.

                what hype for such an embarrassingly bad restaurant. I cannot fathom the appeal.

                I have lived in LIC for 25 years and I lament that there are NO really wonderful Italian restaurants in Astoria or LIC.

                Piccola Venezia is like a 1960's time warp. Even though it is supposed to be Istrian, the place is like a red sauce sicillian joint with old duffers in stained waiters jackets creaking around. DEPRESSING!

                Manducatti's is an over priced, pretentious place and gets away with it because it caters to the moneyed Art crowd near PS 1. How do they do it? I believe BECAUSE THEY HAVE FORESWORN THE GROTESQUE OUTER-BOROUGH VULGARITY OF AN L'INCONTRO AND they refuse to put mascarpone on EVERYTHING. For that they get to overcharge.

                I even LOVE Gino's on Lexington Avenue at 60th Street, a real old waiters/old fashionned menu joint that has had the same zebra wall-paper since 1945. The difference Gino's food is GREAT and well prepared even if old fashionned. And for a more NOW place, we love Paola's on east 83rd Street. Oh, my God. to eat at Paola's is to die and wake up in heaven.

                But to try to eat delicate, well-prepared Italian food in Astoria/LIC is just not happening.

                if anyone can make a suggestion, please do.

                5 Replies
                1. re: nymegan

                  well said and really funny!!!
                  especially the part about L'incontro "GREEK DINER ON ACID" Loved that

                  1. re: nymegan

                    My mind always boggles at the complaints against Piccola V.
                    1) There isn't a restaurant I've been to in Queens that pours a better cocktail before dinner.
                    2) The gnocchi is fabulous.
                    3) I've been there 20 times over 15 years and had a bad main course... never? I can't remember a bad main course there.

                    It's overpriced, sure, but c'mon, it's the real deal. Yes, it's Italian food in America and yes, when I went to Italy it was fairly annoying how every meal there was better than ANY meal here, but still, Piccola V, it's a worthy NYC institution.

                    You sound burnt out on being in the nabe for too long--I got that way about Greek food after a decade or so in Astoria.

                    Sapori D'Ischia is pretty decent, too, for fairly nearby Italian food.

                    1. re: MarcInSunnysideGardens

                      Piccola's fine. But it's not Italian; it's Istrian. Call it Italianate! I love it, actually.

                      Don't sell Sapori short, though. It's not pretty decent, it's spectacular in some ways. I do love their special pasta. Yes, it's circusy in that Ian Holm-Big Night way, but MAN it's good.

                      1. re: Monkey Man Jake

                        Sapori: Another good place for a drink before dinner--they don't pour the hard stuff but the bartenders at the wine bar are unfailingly friendly, usually refilling your glass at no extra charge. You know, I haven't had the special pasta (I assume you mean the parmesan/truffle oil deal) in a while, it's a bit too over the top for me to order frequently, though I agree it's good. I like Sapori plenty--I think my point is I understand they do it better in Italy and so I don't like to overrate Italian restaurants here too much. Sapori is apparently offering an $85 (!) prix-fixe for Xmas Eve...

                      2. re: MarcInSunnysideGardens

                        on yours and many others say-so, we tried Piccola Venezia last weekend for the first time in years and we had a swell time. The host, Christopher, is one of the most charming hosts I've experienced, The place was hopping, full at nearly 10 o'clock. the warm spinach salad with bacon was very nice, the pasta special a bit gluey and the lamb osso bucco was pretty good, but I got to tell you the real charm displayed by christopher made the experience very worthwhile. And yes the drinks ARE dangerously huge. I thought the waiter to be on the gruff side and the decor in need of refreshment, but I can say on balance that we did have a very enjoyable dinner.

                        And from the full house we saw I can imagine that PV is not about to change a formula that is clearly working very well for them.
                        SO I am going to eat my hat and say we will be back to Piccola Venezia and we will now be regulars there.

                        SO thanks for pushing us to reconsider!

                    2. No one mentioned Poticello's

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: FAL

                        I went to Ponticello once with regulars and was not happy with the experience. Food was nothing special,service was poor. I thought L'Incontro was average at best, I do however like Pic. Ven very much.

                      2. It's Ponticello and how about Amici Amore?

                        1. I was gonna say Amici Amore.

                          1. Some people on this board say Dazies on Queens Blvd. and 38th St. is decent, but I have to say I haven't been in over ten years.

                            1. What about Manetta's in LIC? I wouldn't put it on my list of world's best Italian restaurants but years ago I used to go quite often and had pretty good pasta. Here's a post describing people's recent visits there and other nearby places such as Bella Via.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Brian S


                                I do like Manetta's because while the food is OK, lisa and her staff really "get it" regarding service, greeting people, decor....the stuff that is woefully lacking elsewhere. been going there since they openned. I just wish they'd kick the food up a notch.

                              2. A couple of things...Piccolo V is an institution and a venerable dining place that people actually come back to when they move out of state..trust me I did...I love the place...I also love Don Pepe's in OZ Park and think the Parkside for a meal before a met game is tremenedous...Why a place becomes stagnant in many cases has everything to do with one's mindset..If anyone has ever been to Piccolo V and complained about the food or suffered a bad experience there I would really be shocked. Those creaky old wiaters are pros and the joint absolutely rocks.

                                Daize's is not bad but there are certainly better places...I like the owner and go there often but his food is menz amenz.

                                1. Manducatis is just swell. And let's not forget, for a slightly less restauranty flavor, Corona's Leo's Latticini.

                                  I wanna Mama's Sandwich now!

                                  1. Everyone,

                                    Thanks for your help. I am going to adventure Queens a little more and see what is has to offer. Next up is P. Venezia than Parkside.

                                    I ended up going to L'incontro as my girlfriends bday was in early November. We waited an hour and a half even with a reservation and watched 3 couples be seated before us, who had arrived after us. The listng of the menu is obnoxious and meant to confuse and dazzle people. What person remembers 50 specials? We shared an Orata with Potatoes and Mushrooms in a brown butter sauce that was fishy and poorly conceived. Then we had stuffed ravioli with porcinia and ground filet that were tasty but pedestrian.

                                    In truth, this restaurant belongs next to Imperial Theatre wooing tourists on Broadway.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: hammerinhank

                                      Hey Hank...

                                      I've had the same problem with the interminable specials at L'Incontro... what is up with that ?? There are honestly more SPECIALS than there are items on the menu. I end up scribbling them down on the paper tablecloths... And the noise level is absurd... The food is fair but nothing that's going to have me beating a path back there...

                                      We've always enjoyed Piccolo Venezia for an occasion and Sapori D'Ischia is very serviceable. For "everyday" Italian, surprisingly our favorite place in Queens is an obscure 10 table place in Glendale, "La Tavernetta"... everything from a first generation italian-american chef/owner to the very reasonable prices, nice portions, great wine policy... give it a shot sometime.

                                      1. re: Chicago Mike

                                        Mike- About La Tavernetta, what is the "great" wine policy? I've been wanting to try this place and was wondering if you're referring to the prices/selections on their lists or is it a BYO thing.

                                    2. I should try Piccola Venezia once again, although I did not enjoy it the two times I went before. And unless it's had a major re-haul, the place is so Frank Sinatra 60's that it's DEPRESSING. Since I live in Long Island City, I do not see the popint of going to Ozone Park for good Italian food. Afterall I can hop in the car and DRIVE into Manhattan in 7 minutes. Some people in our neighborhood forget that we are not situated in some back water...we are in NEW York City which has many of the finest restaurants in the world. The same people that suggest we look for top Italian in Ozone Park instead of just getting on the N train or hop in a car and go to Soho in Manhattan or to the Upper East Side are the same ones who think it makes sense for a person to leave LIC to shop at THE QUEENS CENTER in Rego Park instead of jumping on the train to Bloomingdale's (2 stops for me) or to take the train to Macy's.

                                      This summer took us to St. Louis and we ate at THE MOST highly regarded Italian restaurant in St. Louis. TOTALLY Chef Boyardee. My sister and brother-in-law live in Staten Island and there are numerous really very good and attractive Italian restaurants theat cater to the Italian -American population with a little change in their pockets there. I'd expect no worse here at the very least.

                                      The truth is I find that Queens people have some kind of psychological barrier that makes them STAY here rather than venturing into Manhattan. These Queens retaurants aren't THAT much cheaper. I just don't get it. Therrefore the level of quality and sophistication in Queens Italian restaurants suffers, they are not competing with Manhattan restaurants at all, just local reataurants....kind of like St. Louis.

                                      Sapori is good, but come on, it's also goofy and expensive. (NO tap water (?), no butter permitted on the table (pretentious and difficult for no reason), NO hard liquor. The place has covered up deli cases (weird). why do we have to PUT up with such crap??? It's just NOT that good.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: nymegan

                                        About your take on Queens restaurants... it might amuse you to know I did a post on the Manhattan board called "Is ANY 'ethnic' food in Manhattan worth the trip from Queens?' http://www.chowhound.com/topics/323386

                                      2. nymegan,

                                        I enjoy your crankiness (Manhattan is closer, hell yes) but let's give Sapori a break for authenticity. The deli cases are because it's a deli during the day! It's a quirky curveball and the food is, I think, decent.

                                        1. I do LOVE the food at Sappori and yes I do get a kick out of the opera and the weirdness, but let's get real here: the place is in the body shop alley of Woodside and the owner doesn't make it easy, and sometimes I realize that we're there ONLY because we can flaunt a place with some finesse near us in Queens...like showing off an exotic bird or something.

                                          I don't need the song and dance, just a pleasant well prepared Italian meal. BASTA!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: nymegan

                                            I *like* that it's in the body shop alley. And cranky folks... isn't that what Italian cooks are all about?

                                            Megan? Is that like a vegan, but only eats meat?

                                            What about Manducatis?!

                                            1. re: Monkey Man Jake

                                              very funny! I LOVE that about my name. Manducati's is THE restaurant of the Manhattan SWELLS, the Art crowd, who have businesses South of the Bridge in LIC. The restaurant was written up in the Times and therefore is the "safe" bet for non-locals. but they must have $. It's not very friendly, foods OK, if you like red sauce, place is not great looking. But as I say these restaurants really don't have to measure up to Manhattan restaurants that MUST have GREAT food, a tasteful and pleasant surroundings and be friendly to guests. If you get one of those attributes at anItalian place heere in Astoria/LIC people gush like crazy here for the honor of going and spending $ there.

                                          2. You're forgetting CROWDS. Manhattan places have to have that too.

                                            Well, it sounds like you like food, not chow. Which is fine. Lately I've been disappointed by Italian food in general, including Manhattan. Al di La is still great. And I dig Sapori, particularly when they don't spare the truffle oil on that pasta of theirs.

                                            Yes, I *do* like red sauce, but I certainly don't call Manducatis a red-sauce joint. And you are being way too hard on Piccola. They're Istrian, yes, not Italian, but I like the Istrian social clubs too. The Brancin at Rudar is really nice, as is their gnocchi. And you don't get the Manhattan crowds.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Monkey Man Jake

                                              dear jake,

                                              what my husband and I look for is enough balance between good food, good surroundings and pleasant service and price. we like to find a place we can go back to regularily and where we know they serve dishes that we like.

                                              At Sapori as much as we love the exquisite fettucini with truffle oil prepared in the giant wheel of parmesano wheeled up to the table and the artichoke boudino with pancetta, the awkwardness, goofiness, prices are real negatives.

                                              years ago a Greek mover and shaker in the LIC/Astoria community who has been a good friend for 20 years allowed my husband and I to tag on when he went to what he called Baba Yorgi's (Uncle George's). This was at least 16 years ago. He warned me, "Megan, you won't like it. It's a real male-chauvenist, Greek kind of dive and you are just too Manhattan for that sort of place."

                                              In those days when the old man was alive, Baba Yiorgi's was just fabulous with cheap prices to match. The octopus salad was a delicacy, the chicken on the skewer, perfection, the lamb, wow! And therefore the spartan surroundings, the formica tables, the simple stemless glasses for retsina...the fact that we all shared tables with strangers was so much fun. it was part of the charm. In those days you heard all sorts of European languages and I was told that the restaurant was listed as a suggested eatery in the United Nations' employees publication.

                                              But since the old man died and then finally his widow did as well the place disintegrated into an awful place and the old simplicity holds no charm any more.

                                              An you speak of traffic in Manhattan, we go to Paola's quite often on East 83rd Street and we are able to usually find a spot after a quick look, we also go to Gino's on Lex near Bloomingdale's RIGHT before 7PM when you can park ANYWHERE in Manhattan in areas that are blocked to parking the rest of the day. We park RIGHT in front of the restaurant. it's easy and fun....and guess what Gino's is on the same block as the 59th street stop for the N, W & R & 6 trains. that makes it 2 stops from my house! that's not a real inconvenience to us. Paola's is 5 blocks from the 86th Street Station of the 6th train. (that's one express stop from 59th and Lex).

                                              I believe that there is a psychological barrier more than any inconvenience that keeps people from Western Queens people from eating in Manhattan.

                                              one reason we moved to LIC 25 years ago was that it was CLOSE to Manhattan! And it was cheaper to live here AND it was SAFE. I didn't pick the place because of the great restaurants or the gorgeous architecture.

                                              But since we have enjoyed other aspects like great neighbors and some good shopping and the quiet and a few restaurants that we've come to like. I JUST WANT A FEW MORE!

                                              We like Da Gianni's at 2150 44th Drive. (that's one block from the Court Street station in the Citicorp Bldg.).

                                              Gianni is a very charming and thoughtful host. The food's pretty good (the veal Marsala couldn't be better prepared.), you have to understand that I am, by profession, a home furnishings designer and the look of the place really affects me, and so I tell you that Da Gianni's decor is well mixed, all very nice except for the strangely incompatible works of art all over the place. To be clear a place doesn't have ot be FANCY at all for me to like it. I don't mind spartan like Spicy Mina's or Baba Yiorgi's BUT I cannot stand hideous pretentious bad taste.)

                                              So Da Gianni's though not cheap, on balance is one we do frequent. THEY MAKE GREAT MArtini's and other drinks as they do at Gino's and Paola's.

                                              I even like Brick because it's a cool looking place with attractive educated looking staff and guests. When in the mood I love the hamburger there with their great fries and a good drink. My husband loves the mushroom ravioli.

                                              BUT I STILL WANT to find an Italian Restaurant with a few good dishes, a pleasant staff and GREAT drinks. It could be SPARTAN or ELEGANT or in between but PLEASE without garish bad taste.

                                              Is that TOO much to ask for in this a neighborhood of New York City?

                                              1. re: nymegan

                                                Tried Da Gianni's (http://www.dagiannisristorante.com/) for the first time last night.
                                                Ordered a martini at the small but packed bar while waiting for wife and child. Bartender asked for help in using remote control on new TV at the bar. I tried to help and was rewarded with a second martini at no charge. This probably affected my taste buds but...

                                                The Caesar Salad was exceptional. Easily better than any other Caesar in LIC. My wife, sober, concurred.

                                                Mozz and Prosciutto and Truffle Oil app that was tasty if a bit skimpy on the portion.

                                                Told the waiter "chef's choice" on any of the veal options and ended up with a chop stuffed with mozz and prosciutto that was lovely. My wife had linguini with white clam sauce that was decent. She said "this is definitely better than Manetta's," which we prefer to Bella Via for pasta, etc.

                                                Though at $50 or so a head, this place is competing more with Manducati's and I think we prefer it to Manducati's, too, though we haven't been to Manducati's in about a year.

                                                While Gianni himself deserves props for being friendly, it's odd to see it touted for it's "well mixed" decor. Maybe we have different tastes but I'd describe the dining room as ordinary to a fault, though I look forward to checking out the backyard garden once the weather warms up (meaning, as soon as the rain stops today, I guess). Gianni's has been open for less than 6 months. Other than NYMegan's mention, no one here has noticed it, in the shadows of the Citibank Building. They might very well be serving the best Italian food in LIC, even if they're not in league with Piccola V.

                                                1. re: nymegan

                                                  For food alone, which is my #1 thing when I go to a restuarant, Manducatis is the best for Italian in LIC. Da Gianni is prettier and has more openly friendly service, but the food is so-so. Went for lunch one day and it took over 2 hours. If you have time to drink wine and hang out, Da Gianni is great. If food is the focus, Manducatis is the pick. I'm not sure why 'red sauce' is such a four letter word on this list- it sounds ultra snobbish to me. There are few things as tasy as a great tomato sauce.

                                                  1. re: nymegan

                                                    have you tried just arthurs restuarant on steinway street food is good prices are reasonable and service was great.

                                                2. "Uncle Georges"
                                                  I never got it!!! I personally always thought the place was a dump
                                                  Correction to your post:
                                                  Barba yiorgo died years ago but his wife is ALIVE and WELL!!!and very involved in the place

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: pcorntail

                                                    oops! thanks for correction. I haven't seen her the few times I've been there in the last two years. the place is a complete dump now and truthfully it wasn't before. what a pity.

                                                    Is that the correct way to say the name in Greek? I was only approximating what it sounded like when my friend said it in greek.

                                                  2. Baba Yiorgi? Don't bababababother. The best things were the retsina and tarmasalata. Grilled octopus: tough. Lamb on the spit heaped on a plate with no thought to presentation: fatty and underseasoned. Vegetables uninteresting.

                                                    1. I strongly recommend Sappori d'Ischia. I've been there many times, since I live in the neighborhood, and if you are trying to impress your girlfriend with a fabulous meal, then take her there! Also, besides the Fettucine Al Antonio, they always have amazing fish specials and a friendly wait staff, plus live music. Just beware that they serve very healthy portions, so bring an appetite! Bon appetit!