Tag Archives: Restaurants

Queens Restaurant Week kicks off at Atlas Park

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photos by Anthony Giudice

Queens Restaurant Week took a bite out of Atlas Park on Monday afternoon for its kickoff event.

Visitors brought their appetites, ready to get a helping of what the 12th Annual Queens Restaurant Week has to offer.

Several Queens restaurants came out to the Shops at Atlas Park handing out free samples, announcing their participation in this year’s event. From Oct. 12 to 29, most of the 200 registered restaurants will be offering a three-course prix fixe dinner for $28 and lunch for $14 as part of Restaurant Week.

This event was created to give diners the chance to try a new restaurant at a reduced priced.

“I think people wait until this time of year to try a new restaurant that they may never have eaten at before,” said Rob Mackay, director of public relations and director of Queens tourism for the Queens Economic Development Corporation. “It really is the best time to explore a new restaurant.”

The vendors at the kickoff event included Shiro of Japan, Chili’s, Vintage Curry, Christos Steak House, Connolly’s Corner and Queens Brewery, which was named the official beer of Queens Restaurant Week.

Connolly’s Corner, located in Maspeth, is participating in its first Queens Restaurant Week and was serving some of their ribs, salmon, salads and other dishes. The full-service restaurant has a 100-person party room, an outdoor beer garden and sports bar.

“We are proud of our food here and we want everyone to try it,” said Bridget Criscuolo, general manager for Connolly’s Corner. “Some of our signature dishes are our Jameson chicken, Bailey Irish Cream salmon and we have the best wings in Queens, I’m confident to say that.”

Queens Brewery is entering its third Queens Restaurant Week and has recently moved their operation into Ridgewood from upstate New York.

“It makes a huge difference,” said Nelson Rockefeller, founder of Queens Brewery, of moving into Queens. “It definitely solidifies our brand. It will feel much more done once all of the construction is done.”

For more information on Queens Restaurant Week and the full list of participating restaurants, please visit the It’s In Queens website.


Bayside seafood restaurant closes after three decades

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Updated at 4:45 p.m.

Seafood restaurant Pier 25A in Bayside closed its doors this week after 33 years on Northern Boulevard.

Sunday, Aug. 30, was the last day the eatery—which opened in 1982—was open for business.

According to Pier 25A’s website, the restaurant was forced to close after the landlord declined to renew the lease for the iconic building, which is designed to resemble a wooden ship, at 215-16 Northern Blvd.

The landlord opted instead to tear the building down and build new storefronts over the next year.

According to the official Facebook page of Pier 25A, owners may reopen the restaurant in the future in a new location but this has yet to be determined.

An auction was held at Pier 25A on Wednesday to clear the site of collectible items, and several longtime customers stopped by to pay their respects and take a piece of their favorite restaurant home with them.

“It’s terrible,” longtime customer Richard Holzhauer said. “I’ve been coming here for 30 years with my family and it’s been a great restaurant. We’ve never had a bad meal, and we’re sorry to see it go.”


A new party at Pachanga Patterson

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bradley Hawks


Peyton Powell recently took over as executive chef in the kitchen at Astoria’s Pachanga Patterson, the third restaurant of the Mexican trio that also includes Vesta in Astoria and Venturo in Sunnyside. Powell had been the executive sous chef at Casa Mono since 2009 and also worked at DB Bistro Moderne, as well as Daniel.

Powell met the owners of Pachanga by eating at Vesta and seeing them around Astoria, where he has been living for the last four years.

“I loved what they were doing in the neighborhood, and wanted to be a part of it,” explains the chef.

Previously, Pachanga focused on serving “family meals,” incorporating  nontraditional ingredients into classic Mexican recipes.  A family meal, in the restaurant industry, is a staff meal served before a shift.  While tacos stuffed with duck remain, the theme has moved from fusion to classic Mexican.

“What I’m trying to do at Pachanga is not strictly Oaxacan,” says Powell, “even though it’s my favorite region of Mexico, foodwise. I want to incorporate traditional Mexican flavors and ingredients influenced by my background, in a local, seasonal, and comfortable environment.”

The result is some of the most delicious Mexican food in the entire city.  A surprisingly light queso fundido arrives in a shallow clay dish, studded with hen of the woods mushrooms, tiny diced cubes of butternut squash, and pumpkin seeds.  Quacamole is served in the classic style, or can be ordered jazzed up with pomegranate seeds, queso fresco, and chipotle pepper oil, making it sweet and spicy.

Cabernet colored beets are delicately charred on the grill, and served with pickled apples, crushed peanuts, and hibiscus.  Grilled octopus is stewed with cannellini beans and jalapeno oil, giving just the right spark of heat to remarkably tender tentacles.

If you order the fideos con mariscos, do not plan on sharing even a single bite, as these head-on prawns are sweet and tender, swimming with mussels in a pot of broken capellini, stewed with cactus paddles in a habanero aioli.  From the land, never has pork belly been executed to such deliciousness, glazed with tamarind and served with crunchy chicharrones and tangy tangerines.

“Pachanga” can loosely be translated as “street party,” which means there are plenty of unique cocktails to sip.  Drinks range from a Coriander en Fuego to a Cactus Cooler, made from organic prickly pear puree, blended with tequila blanco.

From appetizers to desserts, Pachanga Patterson is hitting it out of the park.  Chef Powell is dishing out some pretty remarkable dishes worthy of at least a visit, if not two… or 20.  If only all Mexican food could taste this fantastic.

Pachanga Patterson
33-17 31st Ave., Astoria




Panda Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar: More than just great food

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Panda Asian Bistro

Among a plethora of chain restaurants, fast food joints, small eateries and convenience stores, there’s a new player on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park that is looking to change the game.

Panda Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar, which opened roughly six months ago, boasts a fusion of oriental specialties, and owners are considering expanding it as an entertainment venue.

“On Queens Boulevard, there are not many things you could do after night [fall],” co-founder Sam Cheng said. “We are trying to change it into an entertainment place rather than just pure restaurant. That’s the goal.”

The first floor of the restaurant has black and white striped walls and red bamboo sprinkled around near the windows. Every Friday night the eatery features a performer who does magic tricks.
Cheng said since it has been well received by patrons, they are considering expanding the performances.

A 1,200-square-foot, 80-seat party room for private events is located on the second floor of the restaurant. Cheng, who grew up in nearby Elmhurst, also said they are experimenting with turning the second floor into a lounge with live music.

Besides the entertainment value of Panda, the food is worth looking forward to. The eatery boasts a range of Asian specialties, including Chinese, Thai and Japanese food.

Appetizers are a mix of favorites such as gyoza dumplings, crispy duck rolls and Thai herbs calamari with an original spicy duck sauce.

Entrees, such as tender General Tso’s chicken and yaki udon, grace a wide menu, which includes many vegetarian choices as well.

Cheng said the sushi fish is bought from Japanese vendors, and rolled by a Japanese chef. There are plenty to choose from, including Yellowtail, ikura (salmon), ebi (shrimp), and maguro (tuna).

And so customers can fully enjoy the selection, Panda offers all-you-can-eat sushi every day for $19.95 on weekdays and $21.95 on weekends.
On top of the entertainment value and wide selection of dishes, customers should know that meals at Panda are free, if it’s your birthday.

Panda Asian Bistro
95-25 Queens Blvd., Rego Park
Hours: Sunday –Thursday 11:00 am- 10:30 p.m.
Friday& Saturday: 11:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Credit card: yes
Delivery: yes




Build-a-burger at Burger Bistro

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bradley Hawks


Last month, the space next door to JJ’s Asian Fusion became a Burger Bistro, the company’s fourth location in the city.  The original is in Bay Ridge, with a sophomore effort in Park Slope, a third on the Upper East Side, and now our own outpost here in Astoria, sharing the same 31st Avenue restaurant corridor as Milkflower, Pachanga Patterson, Il Bambino, Enthaice, Zenon, Point Brazil, Brick Café, and Café Boulis—just to name a few in that 10-block stretch.

While the company achieved  status as the #2 burger in the city from Zagat, this location is also just a couple blocks from the Astoria based giant, Bareburger—which, if lines and wait times mean anything at all, is currently making one of the most popular patties in town.  Both Bareburger and the Burger Bistro feature a “build your own” selection of toppings, offering everything from tuna and kobe beef (at Burger Bistro) to ostrich and bison (at Bareburger).

Because we were anxious to see how this newcomer holds up to the competition, we stopped by after they’d been open a week, just to test things out.  Truth be told, we have already returned more than once.

While the burger is certainly one to drool over, I mostly loved that it could be served on toasted garlic bread–reminding me of my old college burger joint that sold GCB’s (garlic cheese burgers).  Other bread options, however, include potato, wheat, or brioche rolls, as well as sliders or lettuce wraps.

There are several side dishes to choose from, as well, from various tater tots to homemade chips, and fried onions to split pea salad.  The buffalo tots were kinda sorta outrageous. Crispy tater tots lightly tossed in a creamy buffalo sauce, then topped with diced celery and crumbled blue cheese.

Other side choices include deep-fried corn on the cob, fried artichoke hearts, and a few salad options, including one with Portobello mushrooms, pears and goat cheese.

The ice cream sandwich was probably one of the best I have ever tasted, with two sugar crystal-coated chocolate sugar cookies, sandwiching a cold, firm scoop of fresh peppermint ice cream.  They also have versions with snicker doodles and cinnamon ice cream, or oatmeal raisin with buttercream ice cream.

At lunch, you can order a cheeseburger with one topping and a side order for $10 —and they offer other specials throughout the week.

Funky burger toppings range from buffalo shrimp to pickled jalapeños, onion frizzles, wasabi mayo, and portobello mushrooms… just to name a few.

The selection of toppings, meat, breads, cheese, and sides is extremely generous, yet still fits on one page.  In fact, the menu is a dry erase board where you actually mark your choices before turning it in to the server.  And thank goodness it is dry erase.  Leave yourself plenty of time to play with the choices to create a burger and side combination that is just what you want.  The cooks execute everything perfectly–you just have to tell them what to do!

Burger Bistro
37-03 31st Ave., Astoria




One door closes and another opens

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bradley Hawks

When Lounge 47 closed on Vernon Boulevard, I have to admit I was extremely sad.  One of the chefs had been the owner of a bar on the street where I live, which closed last year and became a panini shop, and another contributing chef—Julie Powell—had written a book that became a movie that inspired my own career—as well as the lives of many others I know.  But that is all a part of what happens when you write about restaurants for a while.  A place that held special memories and conversations will disappear in the blink of an eye if you aren’t watching carefully.  And that is how it seemed to me with Lounge 47.  One day I was sipping a coffee with Julie Powell, discussing her career and her friendship with Joss Whedon, and the next time I drove by, a new sign read, Woodbines.

It took me a moment to be able to enter Woodbines without any previous opinion.  I know that the new owners had not personally pushed my friends out the door—it just seemed like I needed to at least grieve for a minute, anyway.  But when I did decide to stop in and see what was going on, I was instantly reminded of something I have always known.  When one door closes, another opens.

Woodbines is an absolutely fantastic addition to the Vernon Boulevard corridor in Long Island City.  Serving pub-style Irish dishes alongside American favorites, they really showcase a few plates of note—with some pretty solid drinks, as well.

The Scotch egg arrives halved, and drizzled with spicy mustard for just $5—the same price as a handful of their snacks, which also include jerk chicken, fried pickles, and miniature sausages wrapped in a flaky pastry crust that come five to an order.

Lamb nachos headline for appetizers, and the lunchtime Woodbines burger is stacked with a blanket of Irish cheddar, thick smoked bacon, and a mound of Irish slaw.  It is disastrously messy, so plan on forking up every bite that falls to the plate.

Of course they serve shepherd’s pie and lamb meatloaf (with hon

ey ginger ketchup), but their pride and joy are the fish & chips, battered an India Pale Ale. For lunch on weekdays, you can get a cheeseburger, chicken Caesar salad, or chicken sandwich for just $10 that comes with a soft drink or mug of coffee.

Be sure to check out the drink list, which features growlers and around eight different whiskey flights, 14 canned beers, and two pages of bottled beers, ciders, and cocktails like the Old Woody — Woodford Reserve with orange bitters, sugar, muddled orange and cherry, and served with a large ice cube.

But the best part is that the staff seems to be the same kind of folks I love anywhere I go.  The bartender, Daniel, runs a sketch comedy group based out of Astoria, and managed to serve me with a perfect balance of humor and sincerity.  Those are the things you can’t put a price tag on.  And since I am addicted to those little sausage rolls and scotch eggs, it looks like I may have a new favorite place to add to my list.

Woodbines Craft Kitchen
47-10 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City




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 
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




Good Greek grub at Aegea

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Victor G. Mimoni

Aegea, located at the “Douglaston Corner” serves up a surprisingly good array of apps, wraps, pasta, pizza, salads, Greek specialties and some of the best burgers in town.

Owner Mike Sackos commands the counter, moving at light-speed to ensure that, even when the place is packed (which is often), the dishes are not only delicious, but also well-presented and a treat to the eye as well as the palate.

Sackos’ forebears hail from the isle of Chios, just off the coast of Turkey – hence his motto, “where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean.” This may also explain the tasty falafel and Turkish gyro listed alongside the fantastic baby lamb chops, moussaka and other Greek specialties.

Aegea features a wide selection of salads for the health conscious, including seasonal selections. The winter salad is red and green for the season – tender spinach leaves, cucumber, red onion, beets, chick peas and crumbled feta, with a creamy vinaigrette dressing.

Other salad selections include Acropolis (with walnuts and goat cheese),  Aegea (with stuffed grape leaves, feta and grilled chicken),  Douglaston (with shredded mozzarella, fried chicken strips and honey mustard dressing) and of course, Greek salads, all well-dressed and beautifully presented.

Having started in the restaurant business at the tender age of 16 and formerly the owner of  Pete’s Pizza on Bell Boulevard, Sackos’ pie bona fides are impeccable, as are his Sicilian round pies, offered with a good selection of toppings. Those too hungry for a just a slice can also opt for the nine-inch “Pita Pizza,” in plain cheese, Greek (lots of olives and feta), Buffalo or pesto chicken varieties.

Pasta lovers can choose from several varieties of spaghetti, baked ziti, penne (whole wheat penne also available) or stuffed shells. The red sauce is piquant and fresh and dishes with red or white clam sauce, or oil and garlic also satisfy.

More than a dozen wraps will satisfy any taste, from vegetarian to tuna, turkey or Angus burger, plus the expected Mediterranean flavors, including shrimp with spinach, souvlaki or gyro filled. For those with no Hellenic inspiration, there’s even a Philly cheesesteak wrap.

Speaking of burgers, the variety of seven-ounce Angus burgers for less than $7 (deluxe for a few dollars more) is an outstanding value. The Aegea burger features American cheese with grilled onions, peppers and mushrooms is juicy and delicious. Soups and sides are also first rate.

If you have room for dessert, the Greek pastry offerings are large, authentic and wonderful.

Mike added a mirror-image double-G to the logo, “Because ‘Aegea’ is a palindrome,” a word that spells correctly forward or backward. Any way you look at it, it’s a place for good food at a great price. Yiasou!

Aegea Gyros and Pizza
242-05 Northern Blvd., Douglaston
Open 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. every day
Closed Christmas, Thanksgiving Day
Cards accepted for dine in, take out
Free local delivery, cash orders only
Extended delivery for catering orders
Limited on street parking
Q-12 bus, LIRR Douglaston station






More than just a steakhouse

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks

It is not your typical steakhouse.  M. Wells is anything and everything besides just a steakhouse.

In a Napoleonic tradition of aristocracy, corks—still attached to the severed necks of champagne bottles—clunk to the floor with the swing of a sabre.  A couple at the Chef’s Counter sipped glasses of Nero Né, while trout swam beneath the glass countertop.  Beside the trout tank sat four panoramas—two yet-to-be decorated.  One of the designs—perhaps representing Chef Hugue Dufour and his wife, Sarah Obraitis—is of a couple relaxing by their cabin in the mountains, surrounded by grapes and mushrooms and decorations of nuts and berries, as if to celebrate the fruits of their labor.

The entire space is like a breathtaking tribute to the dichotomy between work and play.  From the outside, the space appears to be merely an old rundown garage, while in actuality it is an epicurean sanctuary on the inside.

The menu is equally brilliant and baffling.  Appetizers can easily pass for full meals, and there is so much more than simply steak—though it is very much a presence, with or without the bone, intended to serve just one or an entire party.

On my first visit, a bag secured by a drawstring was the first thing presented at the table, and we stared at it, almost waiting for something to crawl out.  Nothing did—of course—and so we passed out the warm pretzel rolls, which are served with a tiny pitcher of mustard, as well as a warm pat of butter.

From the raw bar, we ordered the “Dog Bowl,” which essentially could have served as our meal.  The lobster tails were exquisitely smoky and sweet after being grilled, then slathered in an herbed aioli.  Pickled smelt lay across potato waffles with crème fraiche, smothered in salty golden orbs of trout roe.  Hackleback caviar was pressed into sheets and served on brioche, like tea sandwiches.  A decadent lobster roll arrived  next, dripping with tarragon aioli.  Escargot was lined up and roasted alongside bone marrow.

Everything was luxurious.

Potato gnocchi were stuffed with foie gras medallions, and poutine was served with straws of crispy golden French fries loaded with melted cheese curds, all drizzled in brown gravy.  The Grassfed Cowboy was as exquisite as any steak I have ever enjoyed, the juices burst in my mouth as I would bite.  And I have never, ever had potatoes like these before—almost two parts butter and cheddar to a single portion of spud—stringing from the spoon playfully as I drew my fork.

The meal was outstanding in every possible way.  And there are so many things that still I want to try.  The beef butter sounds divine.  The Caesar salad looks remarkable, covered in a snowfall of pecorino shavings.  At just $15, the bone-in burger looked  delicious.  And the Coquilles St. Féréol is supposed to be like a seafood shepherd’s pie, with scallops buried beneath an afghan of mashed potatoes, which have been carefully piped onto the plate.

We paid the bill without even considering dessert.  Our waitress, who had been incredible, smiled as she handed me the leftovers in a brown bag.  “I snuck in a piece of cheesecake,” she said as she winked, which I had been eyeing on the dessert cart, swimming in a vanilla bean sauce.

M. Wells
43-15 Crescent St., Long Island City




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
Hours: Monday-Sunday Noon-11 p.m.
Cash only
Wheelchair accessible




Cavo: A little bit of something for everyone

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks

It is a juicy hamburger stuffed with decadent, velvety foie gras—like a gigantic beef ravioli nestled on fluffy brioche.  It sits on a bed of crumbled feta and is topped with a ribbon of kefteri cheese and pickled onions.  It is the filet mignon of burgers, and it is just the tip of the iceberg at CavoAstoria’s premiere restaurant, complete with garden, lounge and club.

For years, Cavo has been serving elevated Mediterranean cuisine in one of the most sophisticated dining rooms this side of the Hudson—and the current menu is certainly no exception.  A front bar splits off to additional seating areas on the side, before opening up to a vaulted dining room with giant cloth-covered chandeliers.  Beyond that, steps descend into a sunken garden with waterfalls and foliage cascading down two-story walls.

Cavo showcases a lovely blend of favorite dishes primarily from Greece and Italy intermixed with accents from all over the world—under the direction and expertise of Omari Dacosta, most recently of Danny Meyer’s barbecue hot spot, Blue Smoke.  Dacosta has also worked in the kitchens of Trestle on Tenth, Pera Mediterranean Brasserie, and Red Rooster in Harlem.

At Cavo, the Greek influences are certainly the most pronounced.  Ravioli is stuffed with Greek cheese and arrives under a blanket of creamy feta with white truffle essence. Exceptionally tender octopus is charcoal grilled with lemon and extra virgin olive oil, presented simply, yet still an outstanding dish.  Jumbo lump crabmeat is forked into hearty cakes, and stacked with fennel shavings and celery root puree.

A watermelon salad sings with tomato and feta, and jumbo shrimp arrive wrapped in phyllo dough.  Entrees range from plates of pasta loaded with fresh seafood, to an artichoke feta risotto, Chilean sea bass, and even a filet mignon with lemon potato gratin.

Desserts are equally sublime.  A granita of strawberries sits on a Greek yogurt panna cotta, dressed with shavings of lime zest. Nutella crepes are stuffed with walnut banana compote.

Cocktails range from Cavo’s famous sangria, to a cucumber basil Collins or lychee martini.  Sweeter spirits range from a chocolate martini to a sparkling raspberry watermelon diva martini.

From start to finish, dining at Cavo will leave you wanting to return.  Perfect for an intimate weekday dinner or a weekend evening of dancing, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

42-18 31st Avenue, Astoria
Closed Mondays
Open daily at 5 p.m.




Few Queens restaurants take part in NYC Restaurant Week

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Water’s Edge Restaurant

NYC Restaurant Week, a biannual promotion where restaurants offer special three-course prefixed menus, runs until August 10. Though it’s a citywide event, out of over 300 restaurants participating, only three are not in Manhattan. Two are in Brooklyn, and one, Water’s Edge Restaurant, is in Long Island City.

Since 2004, Queens has held a similar promotion, Discover Queens Restaurant Week, that takes place in early fall. “Restaurants are probably just happy with [our restaurant week] and that’s enough,” said Robert Mackay, director of public relations, marketing and tourism for the Queens Economic Development Corporation.

NYC Restaurant Week feels more Manhattan centric, he added, and people are unlikely to travel from Manhattan to eat in Queens.

Mackay also feels it’s set to Manhattan prices. Discover Queens Restaurant Week’s suggested fixed price is $25 for lunch or dinner. NYC Restaurant Week’s required fixed prices are $24.07 for lunch and $35 for dinner. During Queens Restaurant Week, participants can also offer their own special promotions.

Another price difference between the two is the fee restaurants must pay to take part. This fee is the main reason that Testaccio, an Italian restaurant in Long Island City, no longer participates in NYC Restaurant Week, said manager David Green. Testaccio took part during both the winter and summer citywide Restaurant Weeks in 2010 and 2011.

“I didn’t see the return at all,” said Green. According to him, Testaccio paid $2,500 each time it participated in NYC Restaurant Week. Testaccio didn’t have enough customers during the promotion, or enough first-time customers that came back to justify the fee.

In 2010 Testaccio also started participating in Queens Restaurant Week. It plans on continuing to take part in it, said Green. He’s comfortable with its fee, and feels that the advertising for Queens Restaurant Week, which the fee helps pay for, is a better value than the advertising his restaurant receives during the citywide promotion.

NYC Restaurant Week targets all the city’s boroughs and its visitors, and with adverting, reaches a wide net of people across the city, said Kelly Curtin, senior vice president of membership and destination services for NYC & Company, which manages the promotion. “We would love to have more restaurants in the other boroughs participate,“ she said.

When NYC Restaurant Week started in 1992, lunch was $19.92. In 2002, dinner was added and cost $30.02. The current prices have stayed the same since 2006.

Water’s Edge Restaurant, the only restaurant in Queens that participates in NYC Restaurant Week, is happy with those prices. “It’s a nice promotion. It definitely gives the restaurant revenue,” said general manager Abhi Mukherjee.

During the promotion, the average amount spent per person decreases but revenue increases because of customer volume, said Mukherjee. About 125 to 150 more people come to the restaurant, many of which are from Manhattan. “It’s a tool for building your clientele,” he said.

Water’s Edge doesn’t take part in Queens Restaurant Week because it could lose revenue by charging only $25 for a three-course dinner.

Euro Cup nets crowds for Queens bars & restaurants

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Maria Moreira sat at the bar of Lenny’s Clam Bar in Howard Beach and watched in silence as Spain continued to score — and score — on Italy to take the 2012 Euro Cup.

A soccer fan, she said that many Americans don’t enjoy the game as much.

During big tournaments, however, restaurant owners and Queens residents say everyone starts to become a fan.

Joe De Candia, who owns Lenny’s, said there had been consistent crowds around the bar area during Euro Cup games.

After Spain scored its second goal Sunday, July 1, the mood died down “like a balloon deflated,” he said.

Across the street, Saffron restaurant had two Spanish flags flying in front and a sign inviting customers to come watch the game. Inside, only one person sat at the bar.

Herbert Duarte, Saffron’s manager, said that there too there had been crowds.

The cultural celebration that is soccer spans throughout Queens.

As Italy defeated Germany on June 28, German fans at Zum Stammtisch in Glendale donned black or white jerseys with names like “Klose,” “Ballack,” or “Schweinsteiger” on the back.

Werner Lehrner, who co-owns the restaurant with his brother Hans, said fans had been coming regularly for games — especially when Germany was playing.

“We’ve been getting 80 to 100 people,” he said.

Zum Stammtisch’s back room was converted into a viewing area during games with a 10-foot projector screen. As Germany slowly began to fall apart in the semi-finals, that back room was filled with sighs and frustration.

Despite their win over Germany, Azzuri fans were let down by the 4-0 loss to Spain — which claimed its third consecutive major title.

Health Department fines frustrate Queens restaurant owners

| bdoda@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bob Doda

While the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) officials are cleaning up restaurants throughout the city, restaurant owners are claiming their wallets are being cleaned out at the same time.

Starting in July 2010, the DOHMH made it a requirement for restaurant owners to post the letter grade results of their sanitary inspection.

The grading system is intended to bolster aptitude toward being as clean as possible, but many restaurant owners believe that the frequency of inspections and number of fines received are becoming increasingly unfair.

According to the DOHMH web site, when a restaurant improves between initial inspections, the department reviews it less frequently.
“In about a year, they came three times even though we had an ‘A,’” said Dina Amatuccio, manager of Cascarino’s in Bayside. “The codes change and they don’t tell us. It’s aggravating because they come here when it’s really busy and it takes away from being able to pay attention to the customers. It’s annoying.”

Other restaurant owners in Bayside reported similar experiences with inspectors who, according to the DOHMH, are randomly assigned to specific eateries. One owner said that while an inspector may be paying attention to one area of violations, the next will concentrate on something completely different. A DOHMH spokesperson said that fines usually range from $200 to $2,000 based on severity of violations.

“We are just trying to survive here,” said one Bayside owner, also displaying an ‘A’ in his front window.

He said that despite the grade, he has had to pay violations twice over the past six months.

“The way they change the rules, I had to hire a guy just to make sure everything is perfect. I know they are trying to look out for the customer, but they should be more worried about places that have ‘B’ or ‘C’ ratings.”

Inspection cycles are individual to each restaurant, based on its pattern of cleanliness, according to the DOHMH. Some inspections are based on customers’ complaints or re-inspections from prior violations.
“The overarching goal of the restaurant letter grading program is transparency and food safety, not revenue or fines,” said a DOHMH spokesperson. “The Department is now inspecting restaurants that perform at ‘C’ grade levels about three times each year, ‘B’s twice, and ‘A’s, once per year. Each time a restaurant improves its score on its initial inspections, it can reduce the frequency with which it is inspected, and thereby decrease its potential to incur violations and pay fines.”

One Long Island City restaurant owner who received a ‘B’ inspection grade believes that the system is too ambiguous for customers to understand.

“They see a low letter grade and they automatically think the restaurant is dirty,” said the owner. “We have a ‘B’ because we didn’t have the appropriate paperwork on file. Consumers see the grade and they think the worst . . . Personally, I like the grading system. I think restaurants should put out high-quality food that is safe for the public and is held to a certain standard. I thought it was great until I saw the way they were doing it. They come in for an inspection, find something, fine you and then another inspector comes in and doesn’t inspect what the last guy inspected. He just finds something new and fines you for it.”

During the 2011 fiscal year, revenue collected for fines from food service establishments reached $42.5 million dollars, according to the DOHMH. The Health Department anticipates a five percent reduction in fines collected each year for the next two years going forward.

In January, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a fine relief program designed to reward those who got an ‘A’ grade on initial and re-inspections with no fines.

Still, restaurant owners have a different take on inspections.

“I think there’s a lot of miscommunication on the inspector’s end,” said Chris Evans, co-owner of Press 195 in Bayside with an ‘A’ grade. “You’ll get a story that something is wrong and we’ll correct it. Then, another inspector will come and say that’s not how it should be done. You’ll be told to do one thing and they fine you for it the next time.”

“Inspectors are really going rogue at this point,” said the previously-mentioned Long Island City restaurant owner. “I think the bottom line is that the city needs money . . . for us small places, these fines are killing us.”

Restaurant grades throughout the city, including all recorded violations as well as statistics from the first year of grading implementation, can be found by visitingwww.nyc.gov/health.

–With additional reporting by Melissa Chan and Steve Mosco

Two days left to vote for your favorites in The Queens Courier’s Best of the Boro competition

| brennison@queenscourier.com


With over 50,000 votes already cast, you have just two more days to make sure your favorite bars, restaurants and catering halls are crowned as the Best of the Boro.

Queens residents have the advantage of thousands of top-notch restaurants to frequent. The only issue is sorting through all the options to find the cream of the crop. There is really only one way to determine the best – let the public decide. You vote, they win.

There are 44 categories of food and drink for residents to vote in; ranging from best bagel and cup of coffee to best burger and bar; from best deli and diner to best martini and bartender. Each category will have a winner crowned Best of the Boro.

Keep your eye out for each of 150 eateries with a Best of the Boro poster in the window indicating they’ve been nominated. Restaurants will also have postcards urging customers to vote for them.

Click here to vote for your favorite restaurant or watering hole. There you can vote for your favorite in each of category.

All you need to vote is a valid email and live in the continental United States. One vote per email address per day is allowed. The results are tabulated by a third party company.

To stay up-to-the-minute on the competition like the Best of the Boro page on Facebook and follow @BestOfTheBoro on Twitter.