Astoria eatery sticks to tradition
Giuseppe and Ornella Viterale sit at a table at their Ornella Trattoria Italiana restaurant in Astoria. The eatery is a traditional Italian trattoria and includes rare specialties, such as pastas with chestnut and chickpea flour. Photo by Nathan Duke
By Nathan Duke

Astoria’s Ornella Trattoria Italiana is a traditional Italian cuisine restaurant, right down to the design of the eatery’s walls and the flour used to make its unique pasta dishes, owners Giuseppe and Ornella Viterale said.

The Viterales, who were both born in Italy and live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, opened their restaurant at the former site of the Brazilian Samba Grill along 23rd Avenue in Astoria in mid-November.

The trattoria, at 29-17 23rd Ave., is modeled after a traditional restaurant you might find in Italy, from its menu featuring a variety of traditional meats and pastas as well as dishes with unique ingredients to its decor, which includes signs for piazzas named after the Viterales’ four children.

“You have to deliver good food, but that’s not good enough,” said Giuseppe Viterale, who also owns restaurants in Manhattan. “You have to create a special relationship with a customer by providing a comfortable environment and good service. That’s how you build a solid clientele and become a destination restaurant.”

Ornella Trattoria Italiana, which offers a menu of nearly 40 items to customers dining in as well as an extensive takeout menu, features numerous pastas, such as penne con pollo, oven-baked imbustata and whole wheat penne integrali with cherry tomatoes, as well as various salads, including the delizia, bianca and belvedere, which is filled with arugula, Bartlett pears, gorgonzola cheese, spiced walnuts and other ingredients.

The eatery also serves several types of fish, steaks, pollo scarpariello, veal chops, soups, desserts and appetizers. Two of Ornella Trattoria’s most popular and original dishes not featured on the menu are pastas made with chestnut or chickpea flour.

“My father owned a flour mill in Italy, so we made any kind of flour — chestnut, chickpea, corn or fava beans,” Giuseppe Viterale said. “On a piano, seven notes can make so many melodies. It’s the same with Italian food.”

Ornella Trattoria’s menu was designed by both Viterales, who said they offer food from all the regions of Italy.

“It feels very warm when you walk in here,” said Ornella Viterale, the trattoria’s namesake. “I want people to feel like they walked into my dining room. It’s like eating your mother’s cooking.”

Ornella Trattoria is open Monday through Sunday from noon to 11 p.m. Patrons can make reservations to ensure they are seated on weekend nights. The Viterales said they plan to expand the eatery’s menu in the future to include brunch items.

An average meal at Ornella Trattoria costs $25 per person, they said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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