Tag Archives: Italian food

Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant set to close after nearly 70 years


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A beloved Queens eatery that has fed generations for nearly 70 years will soon be serving up its last course.

Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant, a neighborhood fixture at 62-96 Woodhaven Boulevard, will close March 2, as longtime owners prepare for retirement.

“We just want to sit back for a little while, relax and breathe the fresh air,” said owner John Abbracciamento, 60 . “It’s bittersweet. But, basically, it’s time.”

The Italian eatery opened in 1948 under Abbracciamento’s father, Joe. Over time, it became a staple in the borough.

“We’ve taken care of people from the day they were born,” Abbracciamento said. “It’s a wonderful treat to be a part of their lives and some of the most important occasions that they would celebrate. We will sadly miss that part of it.”

Abbracciamento has known the restaurant life since he was 13.

It was not an easy decision to put it to rest after the baton was passed down to him from his late father, Abbracciamento said. But it was a necessary one.

“It was my father’s dream,” he said. “My brother and I kept it going. But I’ve just come to the point in my life where I just need some time to clear my head and move forward.”

“We had a nice, long run — a very successful run,” Abbracciamento said. “It’s just time to just relax a little bit.”

Longtime patrons said the loss of the local icon is a blow to the Queens dining scene and to the community.

“I’m sad. I’ve known them for 30 years,” said Leon Sorin. “They’ve been working hard for many years. Maybe it’s time.”

John Harrington, 73, has been coming for the “out of this world” lasagna for 38 years.

“I was shocked when I heard it was closing,” he said. “It’s a shame because you don’t have any good restaurants around.”

Ed Wendell, a lifelong Queens resident, called the restaurant “the go-to place” for Italian cuisine.

“It’s one of those places where a lot of people are going to look back now and say, ‘Man, I wish I had gone more,’” he said. “It will be missed.”

 

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Osteria Italiana: For a real Italian experience


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Looking for real Italian food, but can’t go to Italy? Then how about Maspeth?

Osteria Italiana, which loosely translates to “Italian restaurant,” opened up over the summer on 61st Street near Grand Avenue with a familiar face.

Head chef and part-owner Michael Zampitelli, who is an Italian native turned Maspeth resident, brings nearly 40 years of Italian cooking experience to the neighborhood. Zampitelli owned a popular restaurant in nearby Glendale, which was forced to close in 2008 due to high rental costs.

Zampitelli, who has worked in the restaurant business starting as a teenager in Rome, wants to bring affordable, authentic Italian food to the neighborhood with Osteria.

Chicken cordon bleu

“Everywhere you go in the city, the neighborhoods are mixed. You can find everything,” Zampitelli said. “Personally I think in Maspeth there are no real Italian restaurants. You find diners and pizzerias, but no real Italian restaurants.”

Aside from Zampitelli’s extensive Italian cooking experience, Osteria’s food is authenticated by the ingredients, such as cheeses and olive oil, which are imported directly from Italy.

The menu at Osteria is wide and can satisfy many taste buds.

Starters include soups, salads and appetizers. One appetizer, the eggplant parmigiana, is covered with fresh mozzarella and Parmigiano cheese with a savory marinara sauce.

Spaghetti alla carbonara 

Entrees include a range of pastas, chicken, veal and fish dishes.

Zampitelli’s spaghetti alla carbonara is a masterpiece at $11.95, for those not watching their waistline. The pasta dish is a mix of pecorino cheese, a creamy sauce and bits of bacon.

The chicken cordon bleu, at $14.95, is a hefty meal with big pieces of tender chicken, served with mushrooms and mashed potatoes.

Desserts on the menu include an Italian cheesecake with ricotta cheese and tiramisu, along with other Italian classics. And of course wines, such as merlot, are on the menu as well.

With Zampitelli’s return, some of his long-time customers have followed him to Osteria. He believes it’s because of the quality of his food and the friendly way he treats his patrons.

“Everyone who comes here we treat like family, that’s why they’ve follow me for many, many years,” Zampitelli said.

Osteria Italiana
57-57 61st Street, Maspeth
718-894-4391
Hours: Monday-Sunday Noon-11 p.m.
Cash only
Wheelchair accessible
Delivery

 

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Pizza pies and pasta cakes


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

IMG_4692

At Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana, each pie has its own personal story. One is inspired by chef and owner Stephen Menna’s grandmother’s meatballs, another by his favorite festival as a kid and yet another by his neighbor, who suggested adding raisins to a prosciutto pie.

Naturally leavened dough is gently hand-stretched and falls loosely down the pizzaiolo’s forearms as it twirls. A shallow layer of choice toppings is meticulously applied. Menna places mozzarella crumbles as if setting jewels in a crown.

The addition of fontina to Greek cheese adds a subtle earthiness when coupled with tangy kalamata olives. A sprinkle of oregano with lemon juice added post-oven really makes the pie special. The flavors simply pop. On the San Gennaro, a drizzle of playfully picante honey makes the pie particularly good.

“We have weekly specials including several gluten-free options,” Menna said. “I probably have around 40 different pies in my head right now.”

All of them are browned to bubbling bronze beauty in a Stefano Ferrara wood-fired oven made from volcanic ash of Mt. Vesuvius. The oven was an anniversary gift from Menna’s wife.

Pizzas range from $9 to $16 per 12-inch personal pie. Daily specials also include a few pastas, salads, panini and crostini. Sunday brunch features a pancetta pizza with a fried egg.

Storefront window art identifies the pizzeria as a “frigittoria,” which means they also make fried treats, or “dolci fritti.” These include jumbo arancini, prosciutto croquettes and deep-fried calzones. On weekdays, guests can even indulge in a cappellini cake – angel hair tossed with a blend of cheeses, rolled in breadcrumbs, fried and served with a moat of alfredo sauce.

Desserts include a fresh seasonal fruit tart (the current pignoli tart with basil cream is sublime), a cannoli sampler, the “Tirami Choux” (a cocoa pastry puff with Kahlua mascarpone cream) and Menna’s take on a Nutella pizza.

Menna, who makes his own dough every morning, intends to make pizza as long as he can.

“Detail is everything… and staying true to what I believe in,” he said.

Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana
36-08 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria
718-278-4800
Open at noon daily (closed Mondays)

BY BRADLEY HAWKS

 

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At Ornella, you are home


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks

“Now this is the real fusilli, not like the spiral stuff… this is so much better…” smiled Giuseppe Viterale as he proudly placed the masterpiece on the white linen before me. His deep, melodic voice is as thick and comforting as the Bolognese sauce blanketing the long coils of fresh pasta. Half the joy of dining at Ornella, after all, is having Giuseppe serve you.

As I devour the savory meat sauce and thin, hollow al dente noodles, he points out one of the greatest joys of eating homemade pasta. Since he never uses a machine, each noodle is slightly different in thickness, shape, and texture, making each bite uniquely enjoyable. The fusilli Bolognese is a dish from his hometown that his mother-in-law has made by hand probably thousands of times over the course of her life.

Each and every dish comes with a family story, and there are well over 100 different dishes available in the restaurant any given day of the week, though only a select few are listed on the menu.This is the man who was famous for his contraband supply of casu marzu (worm cheese) as well as his seasonal offering of the legendary sanguinaccio—a chocolate pudding made with fresh pig’s blood, which Giuseppe also uses as a cannoli filling.

Giuseppe’s menu is undeniably the most diverse Italian menu anywhere around. Will he make you chicken parmigiana? Sure. But only because he likes to please each customer, not because it’s a favorite authentic dish.

The signature dish at Ornella is undeniably the imbustata. Italian for “envelope,” the imbustata is a sheet of fresh pasta piled with chicken, veal, mascarpone cheese, spinach, mozzarella and mushrooms, all folded into a tight parcel that is baked in a creamy tomato sauce with a dusting of Parmigiano cheese, like a gigantic ravioli or edge-sealed lasagna. Also, be sure to order the duck meatballs, stuffed with herbs and cheese, and glazed with an orange-brandy reduction.

If you truly want to enjoy what makes this restaurant so incredibly special, simply ask Giuseppe about the dishes inspired by his home in Salerno, Italy. From his father, who ran a flour mill, Giuseppe learned the nuances of making different flours. One of the most exquisite dishes he serves is the pizzoccheri alla fontina, featuring long flat noodles made from buckwheat flour. The hearty pasta ribbons are tossed with tender braised cabbage, golden potatoes, fontina cheese and a touch of garlic and olive oil. The dish is simultaneously light, hearty, decadent, and a playscape of textures and flavors.

The whole restaurant is a tribute to his family and history.

Painted like a quaint Italian street scene, the walls hold signs for various piazzas named after each of his four sons, who also sometimes serve in the restaurant—which is named after his beautiful and effervescent wife, Ornella. In fact, do not be surprised when on your second visit Giuseppe remembers your name. He quite literally treats everyone like family.

Ornella Trattoria Italiana
29-17 23rd Avenue; 1/2 block from Ditmars N/Q station
718-777-9477
Open daily from noon to 10 p.m.

 -BY BRADLEY HAWKS

 

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