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La Grotta Di Marcello Ristorante: La Grotta’s waterful evokes eatery’s name

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La Grotta Di Marcello Ristorante

254-12 Northern Blvd.

Little Neck

224-9257/8899

There’s a new addition and it’s blue. Ristorante La Grotta in Little Neck has added dining room number three, the Blue Grotto. And now there are three waterfalls, too: the original (outside, between the twin palm trees wrapped in mini lights); a tank in the main dining room; and “new” in the Blue Grotto room, cascading down the huge window on Northern. But if you don’t see water falling as you dine it’s not your eyes but “conservation.”

Waterfall or no , you can count on a live piano player Monday to Friday and a complementary after-dinner drink Monday through Thursday.

We valet parked (seven days a week), wended our way past the bar, and were seated, as requested at reservation time, in the Blue Grotto room. A plate of tiny bruchettas, different from the rest, were offered. Snowflake-like shreds of cheese coated them and very good. It was a sultry night so my dining companion ordered cranberry with tonic and a lime slice. “Make that two.” It was ever so refreshing.

If you’re into stuffed artichokes, this is a must. It’s mammoth, the size of blooming onion, slow cooked for a good while, bread crumb-stuffed with a fine broth. We split it down the middle. Pepperoni à la Sicilian — roasted red peppers, slivered, and anchovies on sliced lettuce with olive oil.

Sliced tomatoes (wafer thin) and sliced onions (just as thin) with Peter Luger dressing sounded intriguing. Luger’s dressing is a tomato-based sauce, on the sweet side, sold in supermarkets. (There’s a Peter Luger’s steakhouse down Northern, a bit.) John, the chef-owner (with Marcello for the last two years) has always used the sauce. I’m going to sleuth it out on the next supermarket sojourn.

Summer brings out the yen for lobster in me. The special of the evening was two one-pound lobsters, cut up in the shell in a roast garlic sauce over linguini. It’s a stunning presentation with just a handful of linguini tucked beneath — almost like an Italian version of lobster Cantonese style, a Chinese preparation, but more sophisticated and more of the moment. My dining companion had Chilean sea bass liveron with tomato and olive sauce, another special. (Chilean seabass has only recently become an in thing. I sometimes wonder what we ate before.)

On La Grotta’s menu each category is priced and everything in the category is the same price: Anitpasti $6.75 From cold smoked salmon to hot crab cakes. Pastas $12.75 and Pastas $9.75 with clam sauce to formaggio with “4” cheese—etc., etc. So La Grotta can be a marvelous bargain—if you can resist the specials.

My dessert was a “wow” with a layer of chocolate mousse topped with a layer of cheese cake, a creamy chocolate frosting and a band of dark chocolate around the outdside. My companion’s raspberry mousse cake was girdled with a delicious, edible band. And both were plated prettily.

Coffee, two regulars. Then, because it was Thursday, the complementary after dinner drink is served. We chose lemon cello. It was served in a tiny chilled brandy snifter. We reminsced of having it in Sicily several years back and gave this a “thumbs up.” The live piano music came through loud and clear and perhaps we should have requested a Sicilian tune to accompany it.

Our waiter did a lovely job and also reminded us of the fine service there.

Here’s another restaurant with fine Italian cuisine, a good wine list and a new room with excellent service. But at La Grotta’s, you have three waterfalls—a different twist in dining ambience.

The Bottom Line

A new addition: the Blue Grotta room. Now, three waterfalls. Live piano music Monday to Friday. Fine Italian cuisine, good wine list and service.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Stuffed Artichokes (a special)... $8.50

Vongole al Forno...$6.75

Malazana Rolletini (rolled eggplant with ricotta cheese in pink sauce)...$6.75

Rigatoni alla Grotta (fresh garlic, broccoli, baby shrimp & portobello mushrooms in a white sauce)...$12.75

Tortellini à la Ciocciara (mushrooms, green peas, vodka in light tomato sauce)...$9.75

Porterhouse Steak (a special)...$27.75

Two (1 1/2 pound) Lobsters (in roast garlic sauce over linguini)...$29.75

Veal Rosini (veal sauteed with truffles, sundried tomatoes, smoked soppresatta and white wine)...$14.75

Vitello alla Rollatine (veal stuffed with pignoli, raisins and cheese in a cognac sauce)...$14.75

Cuisine: Italian

Setting: Three waterfalls

Service: Very good

Hours: L & D 7 days

Reservations: Required

Parking: Valet 7 days

Dress: Neat casual

Credit cards: All major. No Discover

Children: Special menu

Private parties: To 80

Takeout: Yes

Off-premise catering: No

Noise level: Fri & Sat, loud

Smoking: Bar

Handicap access: Yes

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