Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pinocchio Palace - My Take, Dan's Take

Pinocchio Palace - 32-02 30th Avenue, Astoria, NY 11102
N/W Train to 30th Avenue

I decided to do things a little differently this time. Instead of just offering you my take on this traditional Greek spot, I also passed the critic's baton to Dan. The two reviews might be contradictory at times, but they offer insight about Pinocchio from different angles. And besides, isn't it fun to look through someone else's lens once it a while? Enjoy!

Foodista's Review:

The decor here differs a great deal from some of the chicer spots on 30th Avenue like Ovelia, Avenue and Grand Cafe. It’s pretty simple, old fashioned and feels really homey. The waiters are all Greek and speak in their native tongue to some of the patrons. It's also nice to hear traditional Greek music when dining here. The whole atmosphere takes you back to your grandmother's kitchen--and you can't help but expect something really comforting to arrive on your plate.

Overall, Pinocchio is a place where the door is always open—and you do not need reservations, even on the weekends.

It is a fact, Pinocchio cooks up great Gyros. And this is pretty much the number one reason I come here. Besides being huge, packed with fresh vegetables and creamy tzatziki sauce, the actual gyro meat is soft and juicy. I simply love it! When I’m in the mood to really pig out, I get the Gyro platter which comes with fresh Greek salad and french fries (or lemon potatoes—if you prefer).

Another favorite of mine is their hummus. It comes in a large dish and is incredibly hearty and garlicky—fine with me but friends don’t sit too close! The before-the-main-course pita bread is plentiful and you don’t have to be shy to ask for more.

But besides the Greek fare, Pinocchio offers a variety of American-style dishes such as large brick oven pizzas (these constantly receive rave reviews from Astoria foodies), crunchy calamari, and even burritos--who knew!

Service and Cost:
The staff is friendly and responsive but you sometimes get the feeling that speaking Greek would be a benefit. Our waiter was nice but kind of left us high and dry at the end of our recent meal. Dan was starting to lose his patience, as he almost broke out his "sign your name in the air" move. It's his little way of saying "Can we get the check now?" This always makes me laugh.

Pinocchio is very affordable. A Gyro sandwich costs $6.50 and $11.50 if you upgrade to a platter. Appetizers are pretty much under $10 and most entrees won't cost you more than $15. To give you an idea, our dinner check was only $32 (including an appetizer and drinks).

Dan's Review:

I would say that if you were interested in a classic Greek dinner experience, a little on the rustic side, Pinocchio’s Palace would deliver it. The atmosphere is definitely a pleasant one. Dimm-ish lighting and soft-ish music fill the room, the place is not empty, but not crowded either, and the subtle sounds of conversation are also audible. The dining room feels clean, but not new or shiny. It is a nice atmosphere for sure.

The food at Pinocchio’s is nothing special. I would say it would start at mediocre, and max out somewhere in the pretty good range. For example, the fried calamari is pretty good, while the chicken gyro is slightly above mediocre. I have had the chicken souvlaki there in the past, and it was decent. The pita bread was actually my favorite part of the meal, fresh and hot, but if a Greek restaurant couldn’t get pita bread right I would be surprised. F-dista’s gyro was pretty good, but I have definitely had better. The fries that came with my chicken gyro were weak. Oily, not crunchy, limp. Some of them were a little bit crunchy on the very edges, but overall, they were a disappointment. The side of rice was o.k.

Service and Cost:
The prices at Pinocchio are pretty reasonable. The gyro platter (meat, pita on the side, fries, rice, tatziki) is $11.50. The sandwich by itself is around $6.50. Not too bad; you definitely get full for the money. Especially when it’s free because The Foodista treats you. I did notice that a hamburger platter is only $6.50, but if you do go here to eat, you probably aren’t in the mood for a burger.

The service was o.k. overall. It started out good. The waiter (there was only one) was pretty attentive in the beginning. The food came out relatively quickly, the water was refilled pretty often, etc. Towards the end of the meal, he kind of disappeared, and when we wanted the check it took forever to get it. It was like a tale of two waiters, except that it was only one waiter. And when the check finally came, Foodista took out her credit card and showed it to him, and instead of just taking it at the same time that he gave us the check, he literally ran away, and then had us sit there for another couple of minutes. I suppose I can’t fault him personally for this move, because it seems like every other waiter or waitress on the planet is genetically programmed to do this same exact thing. If they would just wait five seconds after bringing you the check to see if you are paying with a credit card and take it from you then, they would save everyone a couple of minutes, and the world would be a better place for all of us. Maybe someday this will change, but until then I suppose I have to learn to live with it. Or pay with cash.


  1. It's true that Pinnochio has terrible fries - but here is my suggestion: Next time you are there, get the Antipasto Salad plate (tzatziki, taramosalata, tahini, feta cheese, olives and a spinach pie) and a small pizza to share. I promise you that its absolutely the best value in town. My husband and I get this all the time. The whole kit and caboodle will cost you about $20.

    Also - their baked chicken entree is SCRUMPTIOUS. A little greasy, but since the skin is on the chicken it comes with the territory. It comes with lemon potatoes that are to die for.

  2. That's a great suggestion Kari! Thanks. I will make sure that Dan knows about this too.


  3. I'd have to agree with Dan's review, the prices here are very reasonable, food wise agree that it is just okay!

  4. Danimal--i declare a food fight--just not with the yummy fare to be found at pinocchio! In my opinion, the key to maximizing the Pinocchio experience is to stay true to it's core competencies--dips, gyros, PIZZA, and most of the warm and cold appetizers (including the calamari, IMO). I too have been disappointed, but only when I went a little nuts and ordered an Italian pasta dish.

    Let me reiterate that the pizza at Pinocchio is one of the best I've tried in the entire city. My roommie, whose parents' Italian restaurant has been listed in the DiRoNa guide for fine dining, agrees!

  5. Don't mess with this passionate foodie!



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