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10-76 Jackson Ave., Long Island City
786-6171; fax 786-3891
"I'm glad," she said, "that you told me all the news on the way over. I can't hear a thing."
It was a Friday night in June and there were two graduation celebrations taking place at Manetta's in Long Island City. (Parties over 50 are held on Sunday s when the restaurant is closed to the general public). The expanse of flooring is large square, terra cotta tiles with walls painted to match.
Although the ristorante is celebrating its ninth anniversary, it looks spanking new. Five years ago the Manetta family bought the store next door and made that the large dining room. The small, original room with the elegant pizza oven and long, glassed deli case with seafood salad, cold meats and desserts is still there for those who walk in to buy a quarter pound of prosciutto or have a sandwich made to order.
In addition to grilled zucchini with smoked mozzarella and radicchio, you can have Black Forest ham, brie, arugala and honey mustard or smoked turkey, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing sandwich or a hot hero. And even an ice cream cone.
When the large dining room is full, dinner is served there, so keep it in mind as a place to retreat. Mama is in the kitchen and makes the homemade pastas (pasta fatta in casa). And there are 11 listed, including gnocchi della casa with fresh tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella.
There is also a chef from Italy at the stove. Our dinner began with a great portobello trifolato with portobellos sauteed with rosemary, garlic and olive oil, and the portobellos were sliced and that's what made it great (intensifying the flavor) topped with arugala and shaved parmigiano cheese. For a summer luncheon or light supper I can't think of anything I would rather have.
My guest wanted to follow up with sauteed mussels as an entree. The server suggested having them over pasta and that was fine, especially since the pasta turned out to be spaghetti, the perfect foil. That's a pasta dish I'd like to couple with bruchetta for a summer's night repast.
For me, a pasta first course seemed the only way to go when there were so many to choose from. There are six pasta secca in addition, including orecchette scieue scieue (orcchiette with tuna peas, tomato and cream.) My choice: fettuccine rosse, a homemade red pepper fettuccine, broad and flat, with red pepper cream sauce, a mild temptation.
There were a number of filet mignon suggestions listed - charcoal grilled, with barola wine and cream sauce, and my grilled fillet mignon sliced and topped with arugala parmigiano and hot oil with rosemary. I thought it sounded like a summer delight, just right following the pasta. It was perfect - and all entrees are served with the fresh vegetable of the day. The whole green beans and browned, potato cubes with skin, looked attractive on the small side plate and were doggy bagged for a salad next day. Kudos to the kitchen for green beans cooked bellisimo.
The dessert menu reintroduced an old friend - the Bondi desserts imported from Italy. They are attractively photographed and described, The tartuffo was intriguing: coated with chocolate cream and rolled in praline and cocoa. I finally decided in favor of the semi freddo, which was unbelievably rich and topped with praline. My dining companion had the chocolate bread-cake pudding with cinnamon ice cream, a homemade dessert as is the Italian cheesecake.
The cuisine at Manetta's ristorante is very good. Perhaps that's why people come over from Brooklyn Heights - something the Manetta family didn't expect. I'm ready to travel there again and sup in the smaller dining room.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Terra cotta tile floor with walls painted to match. Sophisticated Italian deli counter, brick-oven pizza and large dining room. Fine Italian cuisine. Good service.
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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