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Cafe Tempesta in Fresh Meadows offers fine cuisine, ambience

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Cafe Tempesta

176-61 Union Turnpike, Fresh Meadows

785-0179

“A taste of Manhattan in Queens,” they like to say.

Walk into Cafe Tempesta and it certainly does seem that way. For starters, gray and black are the principals in the color scheme. Walls gray, tile floor dark gray. The ceiling said to be “the color of the sunset after a storm.” Gold-framed mirrors. Posters, compari and others. A lengthy bar area on one side and a sunken dining room alongside the main dining area on the other. Tablecloths are black under glass. Chairs black lacquer. Overhead, crystal chandeliers.

St. John’s Divinity is just a half a block away. And three of the four partners are alumni and also were St. John’s Red Storm football players.

You won’t be surprised that Tempesta is Italian for “storm.” That said, you can surmise that the cuisine is Italian.

The sandwich sign outside listed crab aricaha, and my taste buds quivered. What might that be? The rendition of the night’s specials by a waitress listed clams and mussels in a red sauce with crab. Sounded great. My guest ordered it.

A unique, square menu booklet listing a different course on each page became the center of attention. We ordered a compari and a glass of white wine. At check time, we found that drinks were priced like “a taste of Manhattan in Queens.” But there were two rounds of bruchetta, and very freshly toasted it was. Also the oil for the bread dipping sported two hefty green olives, a flavorful flair, not to mention the cobalt blue, flower-like votive, aglow at this point.

For an appetizer, my guest eyed antipasto caldo for two — a combination of clams oreganata, sauteed shrimp, mozzarella in carroza, eggplant rollatine, stuffed mushrooms. Antipasto freddo also enticed — fresh Italian cold cuts, homemade mozzarella, flame roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes and olives. She settled on caprese — homemade mozzarella, flame roasted peppers, alternating with juicy slices of garden tomatoes flavored with balsamic vinegar, with extra virgin olive oil drizzled over the top. The choice was perfect. On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 10. The mozzarella and tomatoes were sliced beautifully thin and arranged down the center of the plate with assorted salad greens on either side-appetizer and salad in one.

My vongole oreganata was equally well-done with clams on the half shell topped with homemade bread crumbs nicely seasoned and a white wine and fresh tomato sauce with a touch of lemon and garlic. Another 10.

Portobella ala griglia, I think, would have made the mark — marinated in balsamic vinegar, extra virgin oil and fresh herbs served over polenta cakes. Her entree arrived to her delight, with a side of spaghetti. It looked exciting: two soft shell crabs in a red sauce on an oval platter circled by clams and mussels. I’ll raise my fork to that.

I chose veal picatta, a lean scallopine of veal sauteed in white wine, flavored with lemon and capers. Lemon and capers happen to be two of my passions, but what made the entree (albeit slightly salty and pale) were the accompanying mashed potatoes, summer squash and zucchini, and a surprise, califlowerettes. The flowerettes were pleasingly crisp and all tasted magnificent bathed in the caper sauce.

We went through this at a previous dinner: “What is tiramisu? I never had it.” “Yes you did. You liked it. Try it.” The tiramisu was huge and square, and deliciously moist. She liked it and yes, she had it before.

The simple vanilla pana cotta, a gelatin mold once removed from Spanish cream, looked pretty with chocolate scrolls around the plate. sliced berries and rosettes of cream. Two espressos and a fine dinner was complete.

The price break at Cafe Tempesta is pasta Monday and Tuesday — any pasta $8.95, seafood extra. Or the complete dinner Monday through Thursday for $19.95 with soup or salad, pasta, entree, dessert and coffee. Lunch is panini — sandwich — time .

Tempesta cuisine (courtesy chefs Lorenzo, Dan and Jose) is nicely done. Tempesta ambiance is quite Manhattan. So, I’ll take Manhattan — in Queens.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Smart gray Manhattan decor. Fine Italian cuisine and music. Service is very attentive. Excellent anttpasti.

CHEF’S CHOICE

Vongole Oreganata (whole clams topped with homemade bread crumbs seasoned perfectly, lightly covered in white wine sauce with lemon, garlic)...$8.00

Caprese (homemade mozzarella, roasted red peppers, juicy slices of garden tomatoes, with balsamic vinegar with extra virgin olive oil drizzled over top)...$7.50

Orechetta Tempesta (crumbled sausage, broccoli and tomatoes sauteed in garlic on ear shaped pasta)...$12.50

Farfalle Paradisiso (tender chicken tossed with bow tie pasta, sun-dried tomatoes and asparagus in creamy pink sauce)...$13.50

Pollo Marinate alla Griglia (boneleass chicken breast, marinated, grilled, topped with cherry tomatoes)...$13.00

Vitello dela Casa (scallopine of veal, sauteed in white wine sauce, asparagus tips, artichoke hearts and shitake mushrooms)...S17.00

Panini Sandwich (mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and prosciutto with olive oil and basalmic)...$7.00

Cuisine: Fine Italian

Setting: Smart Manhattan

Service: Overly attentive Hours: M to Sat, L h D. Sun D only

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Street

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: All major

Takeout: Yes

Off premise catering: Yes

Private parties: To 100

Children: Completely accommodate

Smoking: Bar

Handicapped access: Yes

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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