Tag Archives: Pizza

An old world organic kitchen


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Bradley Hawks

BRADLEY HAWKS

Alexander Dimitrov, the chef-owner of Trakia, which recently opened in Astoria, is hoping guests will come for the organic pizza, but then return for one of his authentic Mediterranean dishes roasted in the brick oven — or for the pizza again. There is a whole lot going on in this new kitchen, and Dimitrov is no newcomer to the industry. He is the owner of Mehanata on the Lower East Side.

While Trakia has no aspirations of becoming a Bulgarian nightclub and vodka-tasting den, it does plan to showcase a laid-back, brick oven approach to cooking far more than just pizza.

The intention for Trakia is simply to bring organic, authentic, casual Mediterranean cooking to 30th Avenue, in a relaxed setting with a somewhat eccentric atmosphere. The décor features much of Dimitrov’s own woodwork, as well as a hand-sculpted aquarium built into the wall, which showcases a mosaic of tchotchkes, running from a miniature Tinker Bell figurine to a manger scene with Mary and Joseph. Three wise monkeys sit perched at the top.

The real object of our affection is the extensive range of menu items. Marijan Begani heads up the pizza station, where pies are topped with everything from homemade pockets of chicken ravioli, to a dessert pie smeared with Nutella and topped with grapes and a blend of berries.

Though Dimitrov is Bulgarian, the restaurant name is a reference to a United Europe, as the menu reflects. Stoneware dishes are used to bake shopski salads — like a Greek salad topped with creamy feta and a whole egg. Lahmacun and pides come steaming from the oven — pastry boats filled with a variety of ground meats, including traditional ground lamb. Whole eggplants and butternut squashes are lightly brushed with oil, dusted with salt and slow-roasted near the open flames. Mici (called Meech on the menu) arrive like Romanian sausages tucked into a warm pocket of lapinja (a Bosnian bread) that has been freshly made and hand-dipped into bone broth before being baked. Sasljik (shishkabobs) arrive on a wooden stand that displays the grilled meat and vegetables like dueling swords.

Oh, and they are making a Caesar salad pizza, and a taco pizza, as well.

“We have a lot more ideas we want to try out,” chuckles manager A.J. Dracic, who hopes they will sell enough pizza and Mediterranean food to sell both. So far, clientele seems very Eastern European, which comes as no surprise on a ten-block stretch of 30th Avenue that averages a pizzeria on every corner, including a few brick ovens. “But no one else is selling organic, gluten-free options,” explains Dracic. “Ideally, we want to be accessible to everybody.”

If you cannot find a chance to stop by their storefront next to Mini Star Diner at Steinway and 30th Avenue, they have a whole brick oven set up all summer long at the LIC Flea, where guests can order their wood-fired pizzas.

Trakia
38-14 30th Ave., Astoria
347-813-4709

 

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The Pizza Club: A fresh start


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

When Alan Rabinowitz decided to open a pizzeria on Francis Lewis Boulevard in Flushing about eight months ago, he didn’t know the building he planned to open in had a dark reputation.

Shortly after opening, he started to learn of rumors that the site, which was a pizzeria before, failed because the pizza was low quality and because residents saw shady characters lingering inside.

“We really didn’t know how bad the reputation was,” Rabinowitz said. “But when we first opened up, people wouldn’t even walk in here. If I knew that, I wouldn’t have even opened here.”

With that in mind, Rabinowitz and his business partner decided to introduce deals to appeal to customers and build new relationships in the community, such as giving free pizza to nearby Holy Cross High School when the football and basketball team wins games. Their specials have been successful so far and Rabinowitz said the restaurant has been breaking even in recent weeks.

Like most pizzerias, The Pizza Club emphasizes the world-famous Italian specialty. Rabinowitz offers various toppings for a wide array of pizzas, such as Hawaiian pie with pineapple and ham or the penne alla vodka pie. The pizzas have flaky crust and are covered with a savory sauce and topped with fresh mozzarella.

A regular 18-inch cheese pizza costs $15 on a normal day. But, on Mondays, anyone who orders an 18-inch pie between 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. will pay a price consistent with the time they called.

Calling at 6:32 p.m. for example, would make the price just $6.32. It’s just one of The Pizza Club’s deals to appeal to more customers.

“The line goes through the door,” Rabinowitz said.

Besides normal slices, The Pizza Club offers squares, such as garlicky grandma slices and savory upside down pizzas, which are made by putting mozzarella on the dough first, followed by the sauce and a layer of sprinkled cheese.

Then, there is the Pizza Club’s original treat; the pizza muffin. Using a cupcake pan, pizza dough is baked as it would be for a muffin, then layers of cheese, sauce and toppings, such as pepperoni or buffalo chicken, are added. It’s a unique look for a pizza, with a delicious and familiar taste.

“You always have to be on top of the game and keep changing things up, especially at this location,” Rabinowitz said.

And, for those not interested in pizza, the restaurant may have something for you too. The Pizza Club also offers salads, heroes, rolls, wings, wraps, baked ziti, and even Junior’s cheesecake, a delicacy from the well-known Brooklyn restaurant.

The Pizza Club 
718-281-0444
25-71 Francis Lewis Boulevard, Flushing
Hours: 11 am -9 p.m. 7 days a week
Free Delivery
Wheelchair: Yes
Take out: Yes
Catering: Yes
Credit Cards: Yes

 

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Basil Brick Oven: The Picasso of pizza


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Bradley Hawks

BY BRADLEY HAWKS

“The pizza was invented in Naples, and then we developed it in the north,” grins Daniele Barbos, executive chef and pizza maker at Basil Brick Oven Pizza, who first began cooking in 1986 for the Alpini, Italy’s elite brigade of mountain soldiers.

The wood-fired oven is kept blazing between 850 and 900˚F, the ingredients are imported from Italy and the mozzarella is made fresh daily (60 pounds of it a day, made each morning by Barbos himself).

“Neapolitan pies cook in 90 seconds,” explains the chef, “and can get really soggy.” Using a special recipe that yields a stronger, less doughy crust over two days of preparation, and by baking each pie for four minutes, his Northern Italian pies are able to properly hold a variety of gourmet ingredients while still boasting a crisp, thin crust. Basil offers a mind-blowing selection of over 60 varieties, including speck & brie, gorgonzola and pear, or asparagus and egg. One of the most popular—the pizzucca— is topped with a baked pumpkin- walnut puree with salty pancetta and creamy fior di latte.

A recent expansion of the dining room naturally led to a menu expansion, which now boasts several full entrees inspired by Barbos’s home region of Piemonte. A radicchio and speck risotto in parmesan crisped bowl is velvety, bold, and uniquely delicious. Green lasagna frequents as a special, layered with spinach noodles, basil pesto, sliced potatoes and blankets of golden-crisped melted cheeses. Salmon is crowned with eggplant, pancetta, and breadcrumbs. Calamari rings arrive laced with ribbons of fried zucchini and carrots with a side of piquant fra diavolo dipping sauce.

The pana cotta, polka-dotted with vanilla bean specks, is exceptional, skirted in juicy fresh sliced pear with dollops of whipped cream and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Barbos handdips each ladyfinger in espresso and whips the sweet mascarpone filling just before lunch service each day, resulting in a rather addictive, gargantuan slice of tiramisu.

When Basil held its grand reopening last fall, patrons enjoyed a newlyexpanded dining room that nearly quadrupled the original seating capacity, along with a front cafe featuring a gelato counter. But that was merely a small taste of what the team at Basil Brick Oven aspired to offer.

As the summer months approach, a glimpse out the back window reveals a rapidly developing three-tiered outdoor dining area, complete with fire pit, scheduled to open later this summer. The new dining room is an immaculate parlor of dark wood and hanging lanterns, ideal for a rustic pie or a full Italian meal, complete with wine and espresso.

Basil Brick Oven Pizza
28-17 Astoria Boulevard, Astoria
718-204-1205
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday
Closed 4-5 p.m. daily
Closed Wednesdays

 

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[Update] Fire tears through Lenny’s Pizza


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Fire at Lenny's Pizza in Howard Beach

Flames engulfed a popular pizzeria in Howard Beach on Monday, October 17 — tearing through the entire neighborhood hot spot and leaving nearby residents in shock.

“It’s very sad. I think it’s very tragic, and I hope they’re able to rebuild,” said Maria, a neighbor on 91st Street who did not want to give her last name. “They’re a good part of the community and I know they do a lot of community service as well.”

At 7:47 a.m., firefighters in Battalion 39 responded to the one-alarm fire at Lenny’s Pizzeria on 164-02 Cross Bay Boulevard. Fire officials reported massive damages throughout and to the front of the store.

The building still stands, but the fire shattered all three major display windows and seared signs, wires, furniture and most of the restaurant’s interior. The front windows were boarded up as of Monday night, and debris strewn outside the store from the fire’s destruction was cleaned up.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, fire officials said.

There were no reported injuries.

“I feel really upset because that’s really good pizza,” said Alana Stewart, who lives adjacent to Lenny’s. “It’s upsetting that it’s not there anymore.”

Stewart — a loyal Lenny’s fan who eats there at least three times a week — said she was at school when the fire occurred, but soon heard the news.

“We’re going to have to wait a while for it to come back,” she said.

But the wait won’t be easy for a lot of the restaurant’s regulars.

“It’s a good restaurant. I’m going to miss it,” said another customer Ralph Morea. “We go there all the time. We don’t go to any other pizzeria, and we won’t go anywhere else in the meantime.”