Uvarara (Middle Village, Queens) - worth visiting
It has one of the oddest restaurant names (probably there is some story behind it, just don't know it) and doesn't have the greatest location but they offer some really great food. My SO and I have driven by a few times and heard about it on a few other blogs and gave it a shot this past Friday night. Glad we did.
The atmosphere is dark and cozy, and the menu is an assortment of small plates ranging from meat/cheese platters to panini. We each had a glass of Sangiovese and for some odd reason we decided to go way carb heavy with our ordering and got the baked gnocchi, polenta with fontina and mushrooms and panini with bresaola, pear and gorgonzola. While the three plates didn't work well together, on their own they were quite good. Especially the gnocchi - really soft and were accompanied by some delicious olive oil. It was amazing. We ended the meal with a very well prepared tiramisu.
Bill came to $50 with tax, not including tip. For an area that doesn't have many modern restaurants that are average priced this is a fantastic addition. Too bad it's not more accessible but didn't seem to be a barrier since the place was nearly full while we were there. We saw that they also do a brunch menu and the selections sounded great plus were about $7 dollars each.
On our way home we stopped at PJ's Steakhouse for a drink - both enjoyed a Weinstephaner draft served in a handsome heavy bottomed pint glass. The bar has a well thought out beer selection (while Bud is available in bottles there was no tap, thankfully). The bar has a tasteful, old fashioned atmosphere though it was marred slightly by quite a few dressed down customers. Guys in t-shirts and shorts, and we saw two girls who were in pajamas - no exaggeration, they were in t-shirts and plaid flannel pants. I am all for keeping things casual, but come on. Nevertheless we enjoyed having a drink there and hope to try it for dinner.
Just wanted to join the discussion. My husband and I are mad about this place. Every aspect of this restaurant is fantastic (ok, maybe I am being a little more dramatic than normal)! We've dined there 3 times already and waiting to go again. Let's start with all things positive:
Location: I love the fact that it's tucked away, far away from the "mainstream" crowd looking for "imaginative dishes" like Veal Parmesan or Marsala.
Ambiance: Terrific! It reminds me of a couple things, a rustic restaurant in Florence (we had some great Tuscan food there) and a Medieval Castle. The chars are and tables are wooden, candles are everywhere, domed arches, a vast selection of wine and you are surrounded by red brick walls. The ambiance is a little dim and mysterious, yet romantic, not necessarily in gazing into your eyes romantic, but we-just-ended-up-in 16th-century-Italian-castle-and-all-of-a-sudden-we-feel-adventurous romantic.
Wine: decent selection of Italian-only wine.
Service: we've been serviced by a lovely polish waitress who is extremely amiable and attentive.
Food: Delicious! Although admittedly we never tried their main courses, only little plates. We loved their selection of cheeses and meats, which can be customized based on your preference (i.e. 1/2 meat, 1/2 cheese). Our favorite by far, and the best we've had anywhere outside of Italy is their Gnocci alla Romana, which happen to be quite large dumplings, but they are not doughy and chewy. They are the perfect consistency with the right amount of cheese and slightly baked top. It's hard to describe, but once you had it every other gnocci pales in comparison. We also tried their Polpo Caravaggio is fantastic. Soft octopus and potatoes, perfectly marinated and warm.
We also had their desserts - Napoleon and Drunken Pear (wine roasted pear with gelato). Both were terrific, my favorite was the pear.
This has to be my favorite Italian restaurant in Queens and in most of Manhattan (with the exception of Babbo). Again, this isn't your traditional-family-style-Americanized-Italian fare, so if you are looking for some spaghetti with meatballs you'll hate the place. If you are looking for some creative and even, dare I say, authentic Italian cuisine this is going to wow you. All this time we've been searching for something close to our dining experience in Italy but nothing came close, this is IT! I hope that they don't go out of business and I hope that their food remains the same.
This review turned out a loooot longer than intended. Sorry, I just got a little overly excited.
Went here for Valentine's Day (night) dinner. They offered a fixed price menu and everything on it was good. The portions were a bit small, but there were many courses. (It was nice not to be stuffed for a change:) The wines were awesome! Our waitress was very helpful in explaining the wines and really made an effort to cater to our tastes. Great ambiance, we felt like we were in another country for an evening. We hope to bring friends who don't live in the neighborhood there soon!
Went there for brunch today. They're open for brunch only on Sundays after 12PM.
Their brunch menu is hand-written on flattened brown paper bags (very cute) and lists a few items. You have a choice of eggs, omelettes, French toast or fruit salad. It sounds simple, but there were some fantastic ingredients and the potatoes were super yummy. Their coffee was very good as well.
I'd highly recommend this place to those in Queens if you have a car. Go for brunch, stop off at either Amish Market or TJs for some groceries and catch a flick on Metropolitan !
Since my original post, we've tried going for brunch a couple times - once they were closed for vacation or something and the other time we were before noon. Who starts brunch at noon? Most places you can usually go after 10am. Anyways..it is good to hear that you enjoyed brunch. I like that their menu is simple and straightforward - it's not trying to be everything to everyone.
The name refers to a kind of grape: (from wine geek site via search)
Uva RaraThough its name means "Rare Grape" in Italian, this varietal can be found throughout the Oltrepò Pavese region of Lombardy, in northern Italia. Not of much interest on its own, the Uva Rara is mainly used to soften and add aromatics to the Spanna (Nebbiolo) that is grown locally.
There are also some other restaurants with a similar name if you search Chowhound.
This is place is quite pleasant on a summer afternoon with the windows open with a glass of wine (in my case, N.A. beer) and a selection of the appetizer-sized dishes which are kind of like Italian tapas or dim sum, so the more you eat, the more you pay, but the cost-value relationship is good.
Forgot to mention one downside to Uvarara - they need to work out service issues. We were pretty unattended to after ordering. Before we got great service, but after getting our food no one stopped to see how we were doing or see if we needed anything. One check-in after the food is served is pretty typical but we didn't get that and then had to flag the server down to get dessert and then again for the check. It was annoying for sure but not a barrier to going back. If we saw after a few visits it was the same that might change our views though...