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Enjoy simply superb Italian cuisine at The Original Trattoria

When I first went to dine at The Original Trattoria (2361 Ralph Avenue, just north of Avenue U; 718-444-1500) I must confess I was not expecting to find much. After all, I figured this was merely an adjunct to the next door pizzeria of the same name, so maybe I might find average or merely serviceable renditions of all the usual, obvious Italian specialties. Once again, jumping to conclusions always leads to inaccuracies. And in this case in point, Original Trattoria in fact turned out to be the polar opposite of what I thought I was to experience. What I quickly discovered was one fine Italian restaurant with a five star chef, combined with outstanding service and one of the most fulfilling dining experiences I have had in some time. There is even live entertainment Fridays (usually a singer) and Saturdays (typically piano and accompanist) from 8 -11 p.m. From innovations to classic fare, it didn’t matter…without exception, every dish was handled with excellence. Specialties of the kitchen proved memorable, and the variations with the classics took these into a new realm of satisfaction. If you are looking for superb Italian cuisine with a hint of Continental flair, you need look no further than Original Trattoria. It is a gem that has barely been discovered, but one visit makes you a fan will have you coming back for more and more. From the black-suited to the starched white table linens, the antiqued chandeliers and the flickering candles on the tables, to the walls laced with Roman colonnades and frescoes, you will be treated very well indeed. Whether you are here for a special occasion or just out for dinner because you don’t feel like cooking, you will leave with a new respect for the cuisine and a walking advertisement for the restaurant. Enza Damasco has been cooking for more than two decades, having been schooled in her craft in Torino, Italy. Chef Enza is one lady who knows her business and her attention to detail, adherence to the freshest ingredients, and years of savvy in the kitchen turn out dish after dish that is returned to the kitchen as a bone dry plate…every morsel consumed, every bit of gravy sopped up with bread. And speaking of the bread, even here there is a noticeable cut above, with delicious, fluffy, slightly moist foccacia bread studded with garlic, onions, black olives, pancetta, herbs and extra virgin olive oil (heretofore referred to as EVO). The loaves of hot Italian bread and twisted soft bread sticks are equally delicious. Nightly specials are an addendum to the regular menu. This night brought appetizers like the red beet salad with gorgonzola and Jumbo Shrimp wrapped with fine prosciutto and sautéed in white wine, lemon, garlic and extra virgin olive oil, dusted with a blend of fresh herbs and served on tri-color salad. On Saturdays, the specials always include the entrée Enza’s Ragout, a very hearty feast of freshly made meatballs, bracciola, and sausage in a deep, thick red sauce with a choice of pasta. This evening, however, tempted me with the Osso Bucco Milanese, a Veal Shank bedded on Arborean risotto cooked with white wine, garlic, EVO and those wonderful herbal blendings all simmered in natural juices. The Chilean Sea Bass was done oreganata style, with the chef’s made from scratch flavored breadcrumbs. The T-Bone Steak for one is first marinated in a blending of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and finished with fresh garlic, EVO and a marriage of seven fresh herbs. The Southern Italian kitchen is a tribute to all that the cuisine can be, from the made from scratch pastas to the fresh fish that is selected daily, from free range meats and poultry to the Prince Edward Island black mussels, meaty and so delicious made with fresh garlic and served with cannelloni beans with a touch of red sauce and chunks of milky fresh mozzarella. This dish is so good, that even if you don’t particularly care for mussels usually, here you will fight your neighbor for the last one in the bowl. The super tender Fried Calamari was done in a creamy gorgonzola that elevated this mundane menu item into historical heights. Heck, even the Eggplant Rollatine was addictive as were the stuffed baby artichokes and the Baked Clams, again, immeasurably improved with a superb breading, a touch of tangy lemon and the best clams you’ve ever been treated to. The Fried Zucchini and the Mozzarella Sticks are the recipients of Enza’s secret recipe tomato sauce, which she should bottle for home consumption. The Portobello Mushrooms oozed au jus. The homemade mozzarella cheese rounds are ethereally fried and again, vanish quickly, so better be quick with your utensils, lest your tablemates beat you to them. But we have only barely scratched the dining experience at The Original Trattoria. Come and indulge in the main repast: perhaps a superbly thick and succulent piece of Salmon done in a creamy mustard sauce; the fish flaky and moist served with magnificently tender and tasty broccoli rabe all studded with fresh garlic, and one of the creamiest and most flavorful potato croquette accompanying. Red Snapper is done with a seafood garnish, the trout is made with sliced almonds, the sole sautéed with butter, white wine and lemon. In the mood for pasta? The Capellini with fresh seafood is served in an abundance that will satisfy two, with mountains of calamari, mussels, clams, and shrimp in the chef’s red sauce. The Ravioli is prepared in a four-cheese sauce with a vodka-inspired finish. The Rigatoni Della Nonna sees the pastas prepared with Portobellos and artichokes. The butter soft chicken breast is coated in a micro-thin batter bursting with taste and layered with melted cheese. Or choose the Chicken Primavera or prepared with mustard and almonds or Scarpariello alla Enza, with bite sized pieces prepared with sausage, mushrooms, garlic, Balsamic vinegar and peppers. Veal dishes are equally indulgent, with natured fine marvelously tender and delectable; choose alla Noci, with walnuts and cognac or Della Chef, with artichoke hearts and fresh mushrooms. Entrees are served on singular triangular plates that are oversized and typically covered with your generous portions from edge to edge. And for the carnivore at your table, choose the thick filet mignon in an equally decadent Barolo sauce, or the tender lamb chops made with garlic, peppers and Balsamic vinegar, or the ? inch thick veal chop hidden under an avalanche of sautéed onions and peppers. Dessert is no mere conclusion; it is its own proud course whether you satisfy with a homemade, really thick and creamy three-inch high Napoleon, the homemade Tirami Su, the almost-too-rich Chocolate Caramel Fudge Pyramid, the chocolate profiteroles, the velvety and super rich chocolate mousse, or the sorbets served in their own skins. Most of the desserts, like most of the menu, are homemade from scratch in the kitchen. The dessert plates are decorated with dollops of whipped cream, red grapes and honey dew melon. And while you are at it, note the most unique coffee cup and saucer set with may see in some time. A before or after dinner drink? How about the white or dark chocolate martini, the Espresso Martini, the anything martini (there are a host of different house creations from the restaurant’s full bar: raspberry martini or cappuccino martini, or lemon or apple martini). The Original Trattoria is open noon-11 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, with a separate lunch and dinner menu; Friday and Saturdays, the dining room is open until midnight and Sunday, visit 1-9 p.m. The place is closed Mondays. Most major credit cards are accepted. Private parties up to 65 are accommodated; there is outside catering and delivery available all the way to Bedford Avenue and the entire Marine Park area on the west, Rockaway Parkway on the east, Linden Boulevard on the north and south to the water.

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