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La Tosca: New, but definitely ready

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LA TOSCA

249-11 Northern Blvd.

Little Neck

225-4295/4327 fax: 225-2047

"They're ready," my friend told me.

La Tosca in Little Neck was only open seven weeks, but my friend with a penchant for Italian food (who had tipped me off to a truly great place before) was so definite, I didn't hesitate.

This restaurant Italiano is surprisingly spacious inside. Soothing and de-stressing. Perhaps it's the absence of frills, just a lot of solid oak. Very Tuscan in feeling.

The bar was a delight, and I would like to start my next evening at La Tosca with a compari and soda there. It's small but beautiful - square, open ended, subtly lit. It reminded me, as I contemplated it during dinner, of the bar at the Four Seasons. There are mementos on shelves up high about the room, plus an Italian wine press and an American farm yard pump, yet all in harmony. No flowers, just a candle in a square iron holder. Waiters are smartly clad in black pants, white shirts, white aprons tied around the waist.

La Tosca is a favorite opera of the owners. They have had other restaurants in Queens and New Jersey. That is evident. And it is evident that the chef, American-born Scott Kroner, has been around a few kitchens since he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America 20 years ago, He, too, was executive chef at Solomon Smith Barney at 7 World Center. And that tips you off to the fare at La Tosca. It is upscale Italian with Tuscan flair and beautiful presentations. There are fresh herbs and regional produce and touches to please the American palate.

At my first encounter, I was very impressed with antipasto caldo per duo with exquisite gorganzola polenta, zucchini-wrapped shrimp (a fresh approach) and baked clams. I gasped as the waiter approached the table. Dramatically, two 6-inch strands of spagettini stood like flag poles in the rounds of superb polenta. Two pink shrimp wrapped in paper thin strips of green-edged zucchini were there , with four oven-baked Little Neck clams on the half shell with herb seasoned bread crumbs. Bliss for eye and tongue.

The bread at La Tosca has a very chewy crust and a dense moist crumb. That's for me - especially when there was a shallow rammekin of the lightest of light Virgin olive oils with three mini green olives.

Insalata di arugala with endive, honey toasted almonds, crumbled gorganzola and vinaigrette was most attractive. Pale endive fanned out above the arugala with a few snippets topping the dark green arugala, adding a contrasting note. (And doesn't a salad of artichoke hearts, mushrooms one with grilled portobello, and shaved Reggiano or chilled roasted red peppers and baby lettuce start you thinking, Definitely, again"?)

Eighty eight percent of Americans say Italian is their favorite food and there seems to be about as many Italian restaurants. So it is gastronomically pleasing to find one with contemporary American fare on the menu. Grilled breast of Long Island duck with papaya slaw, crispy sweet and a sweet basalmic glaze was one of them. This is another dinner-show stopper. As the waiter approaches, you view a haystack crisp sweet potatoes, thin as straws. It's heaped on four slabs of the meatiest breast of duck ever encountered cooked to

perfection, not rare, almost pink, very juicy. The server never asked, "How?" The chef knew what was best. Hiding beneath the haystack was a cool, refreshing, taste-tingling, papaya slaw.

I have also tasted La Tosca's polio alla Romana and the vitello alla dinero with portobello mushrooms. Both were

fine interpretations of Northern Italian fare.

Espresso was the only choice for a dinner of this caliber and I was offered a second cup (thank you) to go with amoretto custard set in the center of plate decorated with caramel sauce, candied almonds, and strawberry with hull, slit and fanned.

La Tosca is ready.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Fine, upscale Italian cuisine. Some contemporary American. Elegant small bar. Gracious setting. Professional wait staff.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Verdura alla Griglia ... $7

Proscuitto con Bocconcini (proscuitto, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, hot peppers infused in oil, balsamic reduction),.$8.50

Rigatoni all'Ortolana ... $13.50

Petto BAnatra ... $17

Costata di Vitello ... $25

Costata di Maiale ... $17.50

Budino Di Amaretto ... $5

Torta di Cioccolata ... $6

Food: Restorante Italiano

Service: Setting:

Hours: Dinner 7 days (Early bird 3pm to 6pm Mon to Fri)

Solid Oak

Professional

Parking: Valet

Location: Marathon Parkway & 249th St. N side

Dress: Neat casual

Credit cards: All major

Children: Accomodate

Private parties: Twenty to 60

Takeout: Yes

Off premise catering: Yes

Noise level: Low

Smoking: Bar

Handicap acessible: Yes

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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