Manducatis Rustica: a serious calzone
Much as there is a lot of bad pizza in this country (and certainly in my borough), there is also a lot of bad calzone as well. Reminders that this ain't Naples. And given that there are far fewer calzones than pizzas even being attempted by chefs, maybe it's the combination of scarcity and weak execution that explains why I've never fallen for calzones like I and everybody else has fallen for pizza. I'm not sure if I could have found calzone on menus when in Liguria or Parma a couple years, ago, but I didn't try. So this is my elaborate caveat--my lack of calzone expertise--for my opinion about the absurdly great calzone I had for lunch about 90 minutes ago at Manducatis Rustica.
It looked something like a Chicago deep-dish pie, in that it was a messy (sauce) and slick (some quality olive oil had been added at the last second, I think) on top, there was crust next, and beneath it came layers of flavor, and here it was more distinct than most Chicago deep-dish pies. The menu merely says: "Calzone" and so I figured I was getting ricotta and crust topped with sauce, but the filling was artichoke, ricotta, mushroom, black olive, ham. The sauce was first class. The crust was more... pizza-ish than what I'm used to from most calzones, and it was a lot better crust than the last calzone I had, at Lombardi's on Spring. This calzone absolutely slayed Lombardi's calzone, fwiw.
I'm pretty sure it was better than Nick's of Forest Hills' calzone (which I haven't had in years), which makes it the best Calzone is Queens (and please, don't bring up Rosa's. I'm a Rosa's fan more or less, but Rosa's calzone does not compare with this calzone).
This calzone cost $13. I have a huge appetite. At dinner, I could finish this calzone and a small salad. At lunch, I could not finish this calzone. This calzone was worth $13, for sure. The guy who made the calzone, his name was Mossimo, and I am convinced it was made with love. Thanks, Mossimo.
The irony of Manducatis Rustica is that the food can be as good as it was today and they currently lack a wine license, whereas the main Manducati's (around the corner) has perhaps the best wine cellar in the borough but otherwise undistinguished Italian food. Ok, that's a little hard on the main Manducati's. If you order the specials there and navigate the menu just so, you can do well, but there are 100 joints in the 5 boroughs that offer better Italian food, IMO. Yet the little offshoot down the street is offering one of the best calzones in the city. But like I said, I'm no calzone expert, so... calzone experts, please check it out and let us know...
46-31 Vernon in LIC...
I've been there about a half-dozen times, now. The pizza is awesome, as are most things on the menu. And the deserts and gelato. I will have to try a calzone. I usually don't go for them, but…artichoke? I am so there.
I'm not a big fan of the original Manducatis. I've had very good food there, but agree that it's uneven. My main objection is the atmo, which can be unfriendly, even to an long-time resident.