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Piccola Venezia, L'Incontro, Manducatis, or Manetta?

In my humble opinion, L'Incontro is appalling.


The last time I was there (and it was a while ago) the place looked like an over lit Greek diner down to the grotesque murals of Mediterranean vistas. I mean have any restaurant owner on this side of the East River noticed that top restaurant design in the last 30 years disdains GAUDY?

NEWS BLAST: These days modern, mono-chromatic interiors are favored. You'd think we were eating Italian food in Riyadh.

where in Italy does one eat such overly complicated and BAD food as one is served in Italian restaurants around LIC and Astoria? in the simplest and in the most elegant restaurants in Rome (where I traveled for YEARS, visiting well-off relatives)the food was generally simple in terms of number of ingredients, but made with the BEST fresh ingredients and prepared with delicacy and finesse. QUALITY over QUANTITY!

Around here what passes for Italian cuisine is generally amazingly pretentious, and gobbed up with sundried tomatoes at every turn.

OK, Manducati's is an OK red sauce southern Italian place with a snooty attitude and prices to match. They get the afternoon Art crowd from galleries and PS1.

A cool new place is owned by Manducati's young daughter. it's called Manducati Rustica. It's chic-er than the god awful decor in most other Italian restaurants around here.

Manetta's makes a nice brick oven pizza. nice people too.

I went to Piccola years ago and found it so UGLY and dated that I thought Dean Martin might be hanging out at the bar. I really did not want to go back. Since then we've gone quite a bit and truth be told, the food is very good.

Gianni's is also pretty good, but he is also a fan of the SPECIALS with 75 ingredients with everything including the kitchen sink in each.

sometimes when I want simple, well prepared Italian food we cross the bridge and go to Gino's on Lex and 60th Street. after 7 it's easy to park on the street.

Feb 22, 2009
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

Must Eat In Astoria/Queens?

I object to L'Incontro. It's just horrendously pretentious and ridiculous. They put mascarpone on EVERYTHING including shrimp. The murals look like a Greek coffee shop. YUCK.

Piccolo Venezia is very old feel like you've stepped into Donny Brasco, so it's no surprise most diners are in their 50's & 60's. You got to favor red sauce and high prices. The service and host are incredibly nice and the drinks HUGE. Great wine list, just not very imaginative or delicate food.

S'Agapo at 34-21 34th Avenue. A greek restaurant serving the cuisine of Crete. All the movie people go there as well as a great group of local artists and interesting people. It's has a kind of casual South of France, Mediterranean chic about it without putting on any airs. GREAT owner who greets everyone and knows you intimately after 2 visits.

Feb 26, 2007
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

Christos Steakhouse questions

Actually, I think it's quite different...more standard and therefore bland.

meats are great as before but with the intrusion of a "food/restaurant consultant" they have chosen to forgo the unique Greek aspects of the menu that made it unusual for a top steak place. It also seemed a shame to change a number of wait staff.

After trying it several times after the reno, it's been months since we've been back again. To me it's lost it's personality.

Jan 16, 2007
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

Tasty Italian in Astoria

on yours and many others say-so, we tried Piccola Venezia last weekend for the first time in years and we had a swell time. The host, Christopher, is one of the most charming hosts I've experienced, The place was hopping, full at nearly 10 o'clock. the warm spinach salad with bacon was very nice, the pasta special a bit gluey and the lamb osso bucco was pretty good, but I got to tell you the real charm displayed by christopher made the experience very worthwhile. And yes the drinks ARE dangerously huge. I thought the waiter to be on the gruff side and the decor in need of refreshment, but I can say on balance that we did have a very enjoyable dinner.

And from the full house we saw I can imagine that PV is not about to change a formula that is clearly working very well for them.
SO I am going to eat my hat and say we will be back to Piccola Venezia and we will now be regulars there.

SO thanks for pushing us to reconsider!

Jan 08, 2007
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

Tasty Italian in Astoria

oops! thanks for correction. I haven't seen her the few times I've been there in the last two years. the place is a complete dump now and truthfully it wasn't before. what a pity.

Is that the correct way to say the name in Greek? I was only approximating what it sounded like when my friend said it in greek.

Dec 19, 2006
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

Tasty Italian in Astoria

dear jake,

what my husband and I look for is enough balance between good food, good surroundings and pleasant service and price. we like to find a place we can go back to regularily and where we know they serve dishes that we like.

At Sapori as much as we love the exquisite fettucini with truffle oil prepared in the giant wheel of parmesano wheeled up to the table and the artichoke boudino with pancetta, the awkwardness, goofiness, prices are real negatives.

years ago a Greek mover and shaker in the LIC/Astoria community who has been a good friend for 20 years allowed my husband and I to tag on when he went to what he called Baba Yorgi's (Uncle George's). This was at least 16 years ago. He warned me, "Megan, you won't like it. It's a real male-chauvenist, Greek kind of dive and you are just too Manhattan for that sort of place."

In those days when the old man was alive, Baba Yiorgi's was just fabulous with cheap prices to match. The octopus salad was a delicacy, the chicken on the skewer, perfection, the lamb, wow! And therefore the spartan surroundings, the formica tables, the simple stemless glasses for retsina...the fact that we all shared tables with strangers was so much fun. it was part of the charm. In those days you heard all sorts of European languages and I was told that the restaurant was listed as a suggested eatery in the United Nations' employees publication.

But since the old man died and then finally his widow did as well the place disintegrated into an awful place and the old simplicity holds no charm any more.

An you speak of traffic in Manhattan, we go to Paola's quite often on East 83rd Street and we are able to usually find a spot after a quick look, we also go to Gino's on Lex near Bloomingdale's RIGHT before 7PM when you can park ANYWHERE in Manhattan in areas that are blocked to parking the rest of the day. We park RIGHT in front of the restaurant. it's easy and fun....and guess what Gino's is on the same block as the 59th street stop for the N, W & R & 6 trains. that makes it 2 stops from my house! that's not a real inconvenience to us. Paola's is 5 blocks from the 86th Street Station of the 6th train. (that's one express stop from 59th and Lex).

I believe that there is a psychological barrier more than any inconvenience that keeps people from Western Queens people from eating in Manhattan.

one reason we moved to LIC 25 years ago was that it was CLOSE to Manhattan! And it was cheaper to live here AND it was SAFE. I didn't pick the place because of the great restaurants or the gorgeous architecture.

But since we have enjoyed other aspects like great neighbors and some good shopping and the quiet and a few restaurants that we've come to like. I JUST WANT A FEW MORE!

We like Da Gianni's at 2150 44th Drive. (that's one block from the Court Street station in the Citicorp Bldg.).

Gianni is a very charming and thoughtful host. The food's pretty good (the veal Marsala couldn't be better prepared.), you have to understand that I am, by profession, a home furnishings designer and the look of the place really affects me, and so I tell you that Da Gianni's decor is well mixed, all very nice except for the strangely incompatible works of art all over the place. To be clear a place doesn't have ot be FANCY at all for me to like it. I don't mind spartan like Spicy Mina's or Baba Yiorgi's BUT I cannot stand hideous pretentious bad taste.)

So Da Gianni's though not cheap, on balance is one we do frequent. THEY MAKE GREAT MArtini's and other drinks as they do at Gino's and Paola's.

I even like Brick because it's a cool looking place with attractive educated looking staff and guests. When in the mood I love the hamburger there with their great fries and a good drink. My husband loves the mushroom ravioli.

BUT I STILL WANT to find an Italian Restaurant with a few good dishes, a pleasant staff and GREAT drinks. It could be SPARTAN or ELEGANT or in between but PLEASE without garish bad taste.

Is that TOO much to ask for in this a neighborhood of New York City?

Dec 17, 2006
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

Tasty Italian in Astoria

very funny! I LOVE that about my name. Manducati's is THE restaurant of the Manhattan SWELLS, the Art crowd, who have businesses South of the Bridge in LIC. The restaurant was written up in the Times and therefore is the "safe" bet for non-locals. but they must have $. It's not very friendly, foods OK, if you like red sauce, place is not great looking. But as I say these restaurants really don't have to measure up to Manhattan restaurants that MUST have GREAT food, a tasteful and pleasant surroundings and be friendly to guests. If you get one of those attributes at anItalian place heere in Astoria/LIC people gush like crazy here for the honor of going and spending $ there.

Dec 16, 2006
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

Tasty Italian in Astoria

I do LOVE the food at Sappori and yes I do get a kick out of the opera and the weirdness, but let's get real here: the place is in the body shop alley of Woodside and the owner doesn't make it easy, and sometimes I realize that we're there ONLY because we can flaunt a place with some finesse near us in showing off an exotic bird or something.

I don't need the song and dance, just a pleasant well prepared Italian meal. BASTA!

Dec 14, 2006
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

Tasty Italian in Astoria

I should try Piccola Venezia once again, although I did not enjoy it the two times I went before. And unless it's had a major re-haul, the place is so Frank Sinatra 60's that it's DEPRESSING. Since I live in Long Island City, I do not see the popint of going to Ozone Park for good Italian food. Afterall I can hop in the car and DRIVE into Manhattan in 7 minutes. Some people in our neighborhood forget that we are not situated in some back water...we are in NEW York City which has many of the finest restaurants in the world. The same people that suggest we look for top Italian in Ozone Park instead of just getting on the N train or hop in a car and go to Soho in Manhattan or to the Upper East Side are the same ones who think it makes sense for a person to leave LIC to shop at THE QUEENS CENTER in Rego Park instead of jumping on the train to Bloomingdale's (2 stops for me) or to take the train to Macy's.

This summer took us to St. Louis and we ate at THE MOST highly regarded Italian restaurant in St. Louis. TOTALLY Chef Boyardee. My sister and brother-in-law live in Staten Island and there are numerous really very good and attractive Italian restaurants theat cater to the Italian -American population with a little change in their pockets there. I'd expect no worse here at the very least.

The truth is I find that Queens people have some kind of psychological barrier that makes them STAY here rather than venturing into Manhattan. These Queens retaurants aren't THAT much cheaper. I just don't get it. Therrefore the level of quality and sophistication in Queens Italian restaurants suffers, they are not competing with Manhattan restaurants at all, just local reataurants....kind of like St. Louis.

Sapori is good, but come on, it's also goofy and expensive. (NO tap water (?), no butter permitted on the table (pretentious and difficult for no reason), NO hard liquor. The place has covered up deli cases (weird). why do we have to PUT up with such crap??? It's just NOT that good.

Dec 13, 2006
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

Tasty Italian in Astoria


I do like Manetta's because while the food is OK, lisa and her staff really "get it" regarding service, greeting people, decor....the stuff that is woefully lacking elsewhere. been going there since they openned. I just wish they'd kick the food up a notch.

Dec 13, 2006
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

Tasty Italian in Astoria

L'incontro is truly revolting. They think it's hot to put mascarpone on everything, including shrimp. the place is noisy with lousy service and ridiculous food. It looks like a Greek Diner on acid...check out the grotesque murals.

what hype for such an embarrassingly bad restaurant. I cannot fathom the appeal.

I have lived in LIC for 25 years and I lament that there are NO really wonderful Italian restaurants in Astoria or LIC.

Piccola Venezia is like a 1960's time warp. Even though it is supposed to be Istrian, the place is like a red sauce sicillian joint with old duffers in stained waiters jackets creaking around. DEPRESSING!

Manducatti's is an over priced, pretentious place and gets away with it because it caters to the moneyed Art crowd near PS 1. How do they do it? I believe BECAUSE THEY HAVE FORESWORN THE GROTESQUE OUTER-BOROUGH VULGARITY OF AN L'INCONTRO AND they refuse to put mascarpone on EVERYTHING. For that they get to overcharge.

I even LOVE Gino's on Lexington Avenue at 60th Street, a real old waiters/old fashionned menu joint that has had the same zebra wall-paper since 1945. The difference Gino's food is GREAT and well prepared even if old fashionned. And for a more NOW place, we love Paola's on east 83rd Street. Oh, my God. to eat at Paola's is to die and wake up in heaven.

But to try to eat delicate, well-prepared Italian food in Astoria/LIC is just not happening.

if anyone can make a suggestion, please do.

Dec 11, 2006
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

Spicy Mina's?

yes, we went two weeks ago and then the next week. ate gorgeously for $31. for 2 and had enough to take home for another meal.

the place is very charming, clean as a whistle and as ugly as sin.....actually kind of charmingly ugly. in India it would be considered a kind of Dhabba, a roadside joint. I know that Mina is Bangla and not Indian but the word is the same in Hindi or Bangla. there are NO PRETENSES here!

wonderful food and mina is very lovely. and for your information, mina has NO husband. the other guy serving occasionally is her employee. a curiously charming frequent customer is mina's old school chum, kabir, a local New York trained dentist. He looks to be a generation younger than mina and quite well off but the handsome dr.kabir who clearly cares for his friend, mina, acted as an informal host to us both evenings and we enjoyed his company.

my husband and I were charmed by the food, mina and kabir
we will make it a regular stop.

Dec 11, 2006
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

S'agapo in Astoria

here's the deal with s'agapo.

number one it's THE BEST GREEK FOOD in NYC. Barbara Lambrakis is THE BEST HOST in the city. It reminds me of being in Paris at a neighborhood bistro with amazing food. There are in such places a group of old and impoverished "regulars", favorites of the owner.

The truth is that these odd ball old regulars...many are pensionier europeans, DO seem to grab Barbara's time. I guess she is not very "profit" oriented. I beg you to give the service a chance. Become a regular and feel the wash of love and attention.

it'll make up for past sins of neglect.

my husband, a retired big-shot attorney, who is a fab cook himself and can afford to eat anywhere choses to have Sunday dinner at S'Agapo every week...and I agree. Barbara lavishes attention on us, helping jack with his coat and chair.

I've even seen barbara walk an older and tipsy guest down the street to his building on more than one occasion!

for any regular it's a wonderful place to call home.

Dec 11, 2006
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

new restaurant, sfolgia, on east 92nd street and lex

I agree that it was a very surprising experience. And we couldn't fault the service OR the roast chicken which was done to perfection.

as per the wine, they didn't even have any super tuscans available either so I don't know.

And it was a monday night and it was late, so who knows? but the bread had not been throroughly baked and the papardelle were overcooked,

Aug 30, 2006
nymegan in Manhattan

Italian restaurant near triborough bridge, queens side

How about trying S'Agapo on 34th Ave. about 35th st>
it is like a Greek restaurant in the south of France,in a Peryalis way, casual and chic.

Barbara Lambrakis, the owner is charming and seems to collect artists and intellectuals and United Nations people of all countries.

On the weekend the Roast Lamb is to die for.

the fish is great all the time.

even Martha Stewart sends her driver for take out.

we go every sunday.

strongly reccommend it.

Aug 30, 2006
nymegan in Outer Boroughs

new restaurant, sfolgia, on east 92nd street and lex

this restaurant has received rave reviews in the Times, New York Magazine and others, but we went last night and it sucks!

tiny & gorgeous and filled with charm of a true Tuscan variety. Italianate menu.

horrid wine list.
NO chianti classico
NO Barbera

rot gut red wine served in HOT glasses

bread right out of the oven that was not entirely baked, to prove it the crust it was Wonder bread WHITE.

chicken plopped on the plate without a piece of veg, no potato. nothing.

chicken was tasty, but chicken does not a meal make alone.

papardelle so over cooked with the bolognese sauce was basically mush, kind of like dog food

Aug 29, 2006
nymegan in Manhattan