Dining Out: Well-liked chef takes helm at Forest Hills’s La Vigna

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La Vigna is the most recent arrival of the four upscale Italian restaurants that exist within walking distance of each other on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills. You can spot them by the white icicle lights around their awnings — a feature that seems to have become de rigueur for Italian restaurants in Queens. The owner/chef, Giuseppe Vitale, did a stint at Sarabella, before opening La Vigna down the avenue. He also cooked in Lidia Bastianich’s famed kitchens of Felida, Becco, and her original Forest Hills location, Bona Via.

The ambiance in La Vigna’s long narrow space leans towards formality. There are large ornate mirrors on the walls and a brass and glass partition separating the bar from the dining area. A swinging kitchen door, possibly from a ship, with a Mediterranean scene painted behind the round window, is used as a decoration. The tables are topped with crisp white linen. It’s a bit much for the dimensions of the room. A touch of whimsy or funkiness would have gone a long way. Lighten up, guys.

The complimentary bruschetta brought to the table while studying the menu was excellent. So was the bread. We were attracted to the Portobello Ripieno ai Funghi (Portobello stuffed with wild mushrooms, corn and goat cheese), but, alas, were persuaded by our waiter to try an appetizer special, a mixed hot appetizer platter for two. The appetizer platter consisted of a bunch of bread crumb-stuffed items that were not bad, but truly unmemorable. The Portobello appetizer sounded so much more imaginative. Why did I listen?

We tried two soups. The Zuppa di Verdure (mixed vegetable soup) was hearty and delicious. It was a thick soup with an interesting mixture of vegetables, and a pleasing tartness. Very filling as well. The other soup was a “Zuppa del Giorno” (soup of the day) whose name we didn’t catch. It consisted of spinach, and egg in a light broth. Something was missing from that soup — I think it was flavor.

We chose Fusilli Caprese (curly pasta topped with fresh tomato, basil and homemade mozzarella in a garlic and olive sauce) for our pasta course. The pasta was properly al dente, the ingredients fresh, and the sauce both delicate and zesty at the same time. Nice.

The entrees we sampled were a mixed bag. The trout special was fresh, lemony, and delicate. The big disappointment was the Costoletta di Vitello all Vigna — a sautéed veal chop with grapes, walnuts and aged balsamic vinegar. Named after the restaurant, this should be its signature dish, right? Well the sauce was interesting enough, even if balsamic vinegar is getting a little played out by its overuse, but the veal was tough. This good-looking chop gave my jaw muscles a real workout — one of the few of my muscle groups that is really fit. A $25 veal chop should be tender.

The desserts we ordered were rich but undistinguished. We tried a chocolate mousse cake, and a raspberry mousse cake. We should have saved the calories.

On a subsequent lunch visit, we tried a few more dishes. The whole-wheat fettucine was just the right texture topped with a delightful light tomato sauce. Veal Marsala and Chicken Francese both lived up to (but did not surpass) expectations.

The Bottom Line

This is a good place for locals to get a pretty decent, if not remarkable Italian meal. It aspires to be a cut above the average neighborhood Italian joint, but doesn’t quite make it to the truly superior level.

La Vigna

100-11 Metropolitan Ave.

Forest Hills, NY 11375


Cuisine: Italian

Setting: Upscale

Service: Professional and efficient

Hours: L Tue–Sat, D Tue-Sun

Reservations: Recommended on Weekends

Parking: Street

Dress: Informal to Dressy

Children: Welcome

Takeout: Yes

Credit cards: Yes

Handicap Access: Yes

Recommended Dishes:

Zuppe di Verdure (vegetable soup)…$5.50

Ravioli del Giorno (changes daily, usually a good bet)…$14

Fusilli Caprese (curly pasta topped with a fresh tomato, basil, and homemade mozzarella in a garlic and olive oil sauce)…$16.50

Rigatoni alla Bosciaola (rigatoni pasta in a country style pink sauce, with prosciutto, mushrooms, peas, and ricotta cheese)…$14.50

Branzino al’Acqua Pazza (Chilean sea bass in a light tomato sauce with fresh herbs)...$22

Pollo Marsala (breast of chicken with mushrooms in a marsala sauce)...$16.50

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