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Piccola Venezia, L'Incontro, Manducatis, or Manetta?

We've lived in Astoria for a few years now, and have still not been to any of the supposedly great Italian restaurants right in our backyard. Well, I've decided that this drought is going to come to an end on Valentine's Day. I am going to attempt to take my wife (who hopefully will not be reading this thread) to one of the above places. Which one should it be?

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  1. All 4 are different type places. My favorite is L'Incontro, but it is much more "modern" Italian.

    Piccola Venezia is old school Istrian, but NOT red sauce. Try the osso-buco and gnocchi with gorgonzola.

    Manducatis is old school red sauce and excellent. Try the ricotta gnocchi in red sauce or a traditional southern Italian/Sicilian dish.

    Manettas is nothing too special, much simpler than the others and less fancy. Their pizza is good, but I've had mixed experiences with other things.

    L'Incontro has a huge breadth and their daily specials list will make your head spin. Try any of the homemade pasta. They also do wonders with various game meats like Elk, Venison and Ostrich. Don't miss the grilled octopus and the burrata appetizer.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Astoria Lurker

      Consider Manducatis Rustica- their new restaurant. It is presently BYOB (until they get their wine license) and we had a wonderful dinner tonight right by the fireplace. I'd recommend the fresh pasta with bolognese and the made-to-order eggplant parmigiana. We will certainly be back!

      Hope

      1. re: Astoria Lurker

        i love both piccola and manducatis, but if i had to pick one, it'd definitely be piccola. outstanding pastas -- the sfuzi in grappa , in particular -- and seafood dishes. atmosphere at once homey and elegant (though there will probably be at least one table of guys in sweats). manducatis has more trad red sauce stuff which is one area in which piccola falls short.

        1. re: Astoria Lurker

          not a big fan of L'Incontro which i think is quite noisy and the waiters a little obnoxious but the food is good. we love piccolo's - have been eating there for about 25 years now and always have a great meal. my favorite for the past 2 years has been the buco-loni - osso bucco stuffed large tortellin in a brownish redish sauce - absolutely yummy! my husband always has the veal chop sorrentino, delish!

          1. re: meb903

            On most occassions, if I had to pick between Piccolo and L'Incontro, I'd pick L'Incontro, primiarly because I have enjoyed the food much more. For Valentines Day, I'd probably go with Piccolo, because meb903 is right in the L'Incontro tends to be noisy. In my experience, the waitstaff st L'Incontro has never been obnoxious.

            1. re: Captain

              I can't comment on L'Incontro as I've only been once, it was years ago, and we weren't blown away... but it was years ago.

              Just a couple of echoes here--
              Piccolo is way better than Manducati's. Piccolo is pricier, but the food is just much better.

              Manetta's, I have concluded, is not very good. The pizza is fine. The martinis are large. Some of the fresh pasta dishes are fine. But it's heavy food that rarely wows. We finally gave up on the place.

              The most interesting new thing happening in Italian food in the area is Manducatis Rustica. A couple of weekends ago, we went by a PACKED Bella Via at 6pm on a Sunday night and walked into a 2/3rds empty M. Rustica. I've eaten at BV perhaps 25 times, and while the pizza crust there might be a smidge better than Rustica's, Rustica is a far better restaurant in every other way. Way better pasta dishes, a truly phenomenal calzone, and an ever-changing menu that oozes with soul, nightly. Really nice gelato, too. Plus it's BYO.

              After a few visits at Rustica it seems like the crowds are starting to grow but I've never seen it more than 1/2 full. Enjoy the calmness it while it lasts.

              1. re: MarcInSunnysideGardens

                yeah, manetta's fresh pasta and pizza are best. Some dishes not up to par. But a nice bread, a nice fresh pasta nere and a glass of wine there is so much more fulfilling than the yash at manducati's kid's place or piccolo toupes

                -----
                Manetta's
                10-76 Jackson Ave, Queens, NY 11101

        2. Personally I am not a big fan of L'Incontro. Just because your waiter can rattle off 40 specials, doesn't mean that the food is good. I am of the belief that less is more when it comes to a menu. Stick with Piccola.

          1. I have been to all of the above many times-I would consider Ponticello. I do not think particularly highly of either Manducati's or Manetta. I would put them in the class with Parkside. PV is a very nice place, and if Gianni the Maitre D' is on your side, you will do very well- Order off the specials menu that are verbally presented. Baby pig is nice, Grilled Squid, Stuffed Squid, Dover Sole, Veal Chop grilled, Osso Buco, Buco-lini, Sfuzi Grappa, etc... L'incontro is more inventive- Napoleon of Bacala, Killer pastas, Risotto, Funghi, It's more upscale bistro... Ponticello is a bit more refined than the others- perfect for Valentine's Day- I'd say Piccola Venezia for Fathers Day, and L'Incontro for a fun night out with friends...

            3 Replies
            1. re: rootytootyfreshnfrooty

              It's the OP. I made a reservation at PV. You're not the first person who suggested that I should get Gianni "on my side." I'm intrigued - what is the significance of this? The reason I ask is, a family friend told me to ask for Gianni and say that "X sent me," but I hesitated to do that because I don't know X, so I didn't want to be called to task in case X is some Astoria player sitting in the back of the restaurant

              1. re: bennyt

                Just to clarify- I didn't say get Gianni on your side- I said if he's on your side... He is an excellent Maitre D' and if you let him guide the ordering to what is fresh that given night, you will have an excellent meal. Walter, one of the old Maitre D's has a restaurant on Northern Blvd. in Little Neck called Conti's... By the way, Ponticello was also opened by a former Maitre D' from Piccolo Venezia, FYI.

              2. re: rootytootyfreshnfrooty

                Really disagree with the statement that Ponticello is more refined than Piccolo. Ponticello is fine, nothing special. But maybe it's because I don't know Gianni.

              3. Always enjoyed myself at Manducatis, especially with MaMa in the kitchen....I'm glad someone brought it up, haven't been there in a while, I think I'll go back there this week.

                1. In my humble opinion, L'Incontro is appalling.

                  THEY -IN TRUE QUEENS STYLE- THROW 25 INGREGIENTS INTO EVERY DISH AND TOP IT ALL OFF GENERALLY WITH MASCARPONE. yuck! even Mascarpone on SHRIMP!!!!

                  The last time I was there (and it was a while ago) the place looked like an over lit Greek diner down to the grotesque murals of Mediterranean vistas. I mean have any restaurant owner on this side of the East River noticed that top restaurant design in the last 30 years disdains GAUDY?

                  NEWS BLAST: These days modern, mono-chromatic interiors are favored. You'd think we were eating Italian food in Riyadh.

                  where in Italy does one eat such overly complicated and BAD food as one is served in Italian restaurants around LIC and Astoria? in the simplest and in the most elegant restaurants in Rome (where I traveled for YEARS, visiting well-off relatives)the food was generally simple in terms of number of ingredients, but made with the BEST fresh ingredients and prepared with delicacy and finesse. QUALITY over QUANTITY!

                  Around here what passes for Italian cuisine is generally amazingly pretentious, and gobbed up with sundried tomatoes at every turn.

                  OK, Manducati's is an OK red sauce southern Italian place with a snooty attitude and prices to match. They get the afternoon Art crowd from galleries and PS1.

                  A cool new place is owned by Manducati's young daughter. it's called Manducati Rustica. It's chic-er than the god awful decor in most other Italian restaurants around here.

                  Manetta's makes a nice brick oven pizza. nice people too.

                  I went to Piccola years ago and found it so UGLY and dated that I thought Dean Martin might be hanging out at the bar. I really did not want to go back. Since then we've gone quite a bit and truth be told, the food is very good.

                  Gianni's is also pretty good, but he is also a fan of the SPECIALS with 75 ingredients with everything including the kitchen sink in each.

                  sometimes when I want simple, well prepared Italian food we cross the bridge and go to Gino's on Lex and 60th Street. after 7 it's easy to park on the street.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: nymegan

                    I had one dinner at L'Incontro and your bold face comments pretty much spelled out my thoughts about the place. I could never understand all of the rave comments.

                    1. re: nymegan

                      Manducati rustica has very nice decore, but AWFUL food. Yuck. You're right about Piccola's decor...I laffed out loud at the Dean Martin quip. Manetta's is the best of the bunch.

                      -----
                      Manducatis
                      13-27 Jackson Ave, Queens, NY 11101

                      Manetta's
                      10-76 Jackson Ave, Queens, NY 11101

                    2. What about Sapori d'Ischia? I always love it there. Can't go wrong when you know all the ingredients are good, imported food. Though I know people are very mixed with it. Either love it or hate it.

                      (I'm aware I strayed from the original topic, sorry. But in the same vein, right?)

                      1. We've only been to the first two on your list and our opinion is L'Incontro and it's not even close. The food, atmosphere, and servie are all worlds better. Piccola is dated.