In a borough with hundreds of Italian restaurants, it is difficult to separate yourself from the pack. If you want penne alla vodka or eggplant Parmigiana, just head to any main road and you will likely find a plethora of options.
But if you are looking for a menu that offers more than just the basics, a restaurant that treats each patron as though you are a guest in their home back in Italy, the list quickly dwindles until you are left with Vesuvio Ristorante of Whitestone.
To set themselves apart in a crowded field, brothers and owners Nick and Max Marmo refuse to sacrifice quality and freshness. Much of the food is made from scratch in-house daily, and only a few days’ worth of ingredients is ordered to ensure the food is always fresh.
Born and raised in Italy, the brothers value the idea that a meal is meant to be savored and enjoyed, not consumed solely to be turned into energy.
Nothing in the restaurant is pre-prepared; when a customer orders chicken Parmigiana, it is breaded, fried and cooked at that moment.
The same time and effort used on each dish is also taken on the menu that often undergoes changes to keep it current. Veusvio offers all the Italian staples, but specializes in items unseen at most neighborhood restaurants, including wild boar stew and duck served in an espresso-hazelnut sauce.
Appetizers feature Mozzarella in Carrozza (pan-fried bread with buffalo mozzarella, pesto and tomato sauce), ostriche (fried oysters served in a lemon, butter sauce) and an assortment of salads the pair’s mother used to serve when they were children.
The pasta, which includes lobster ravioli, gnocchi, linguini and fusilli made at the restaurant, is highlighted by pappardelle with duck ragout and gnocchi alla Sorrentina. The duck ragout will warm the soul and fill the stomach on cold, winter nights. The meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender, and goes splendidly with the texture and taste of the homemade pappardelle. Any remaining sauce is begging to be soaked up with the homemade bread on the table.
If you are seeking a fish dish, the branzino al forno stands out for its simplicity. Cooking the fish whole, on the bone with just a touch of garlic and rosemary allows the natural flavor of the fish to shine.
The limoncello cake — a recipe crafted by the pair’s father — is a perfect finishing item for a meal. It is light, moist and not too sweet.
Next time you think you have to travel into the city for diverse Italian dining experience, remember there is a Manhattan menu, with Queens prices, sitting right there in Whitestone.
12-02 149th Street Whitestone, NY 11357
Open Wednesday to Monday Lunch, dinner Hosts parties, caters
All major credit cards accepted
Brothers Nick and Max Marmo elevate traditional Italian fare.