Sunday, November 9, 2008

Manducatis Rustica - Simple, Homestyle Italian Food

Manducatis Rustica - 46-35 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, NY 11101
7 Train to Vernon Blvd/Jackson Avenue

I've been wanting to check out this rustic Italian cafe for a couple of weeks now--ever since I saw a picture of one of its delicious looking sandwiches on Meg's post. The fact that they also make their own gelato didn't hurt.

Your recent guest Foodista Vicky and I headed over there last week and judging from our fine experience, I can confidently say that we'll be back.

The overall vibe here is very relaxed and informal, as they give meaning to the word "rustica." Exposed brick walls, casually set tables and a big, open dining room welcome you. Actually, what you first see is a counter where you can order if you don't wish to get table service. Beautiful tiramisu, gelato, cakes and other baked goods lure you in as you walk past their extensive glass display.

Once you get to the dining room, you really feel at home. There's a lived-in couch near a cozy fireplace and a couple of tables of all shapes and sizes. The furniture feels thrown together as if from a garage sale but somehow it all works to form an intimate and pleasant atmosphere. You want to be sitting there and so does everyone else.

The menu at Manducatis is limited to pizza, sandwiches and a couple of daily specials. That was more than fine by us, as we were looking forward to a light and simple meal. We ordered the following items and shared everything:

Mushroom and Spinach Mini Quiches - This was an on-the-house starter that was offered to us right after the bread. "How nice" we thought! And "how yummy" after we tasted them. They were the perfect size, presented beautifully with a puff pastry criss-cross on top. The flavors were great, as we both love mushrooms and spinach--and the crust was nice and flaky too. It would've been better if served warm but overall it was a lovely start to our meal.

Eggplant Rollatini - One of the house specials that night, we were immediately taken by the spinach, ricotta filling that our waitress described. I liked it very much and thought that the sauce tasted homemade and fresh. After I finished my eggplant, I used the sauce to spice up the bread that needed some moistness. The interior was tasty too but the outside of the rollatini could've been a little crispier--it was on the soggy side and felt a bit weighed down. Not sure if Vicky agreed but I know that she didn't love this dish.

Pizza Rustica - Now this is where Manducatis really excelled. We both loved this airy and crispy pie that was topped with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and tons of arugula. There was no marinara sauce on it, which made it taste light and even healthy. We had no trouble finishing the generous portion and what I especially loved was how the goat cheese melted in with the sun-dried tomatoes. I'd definitely get this pizza again and I have a hunch that Vicky would too.

Gelato Tasting - Our charming waitress offered us a gelato tasting, which came beautifully presented in five shot glasses garnished with chocolate sauce and two pirouette cookies. Out of the five flavors which were strawberry, kiwi, bacio, coffee and apple, the bacio (or kiss) was my favorite. It included a swirl of chocolate and vanilla gelato with a crunchy almond (the bacio) nestled in the middle. The smoothness and luxuriousness of the flavors put a smile to my lips and unfortunately for Vicky, I hogged this portion for myself. My second favorite was the coffee--it was very strong and flavorful but needed a sweeter, gentler accompaniment like a fruit flavor to balance things out.

Service and Cost:
Both Vicky and I were a bit obsessed with our waitress. She was frighteningly charming and very Italian. Every time that she opened her mouth and recited another specialty or just anything for that matter, we swooned. She was the real thing--an Italian woman who commanded attention and exuded confidence. We stopped our conversation when we heard her singing in Italian--it was a little ridiculous. But besides us having a girl-crush on our waitress, she was very good. Everything was brought out in good time and she was pleasant, made some good recommendations and was never afraid to let us know about her favorites.

Manducatis' prices are reasonable. For the meal that I just described, our bill was in the $30 price range. Pizzas range between $11-$14. House specials vary but to give you an idea, our eggplant was about $8. This place will not empty your wallet and I'd definitely suggest it.

3 Mmmms


  1. Glad you and Vicky enjoyed your food at Manducatis Rustica! I really loved the food when I went there back in September:

  2. Their pizza is of the same kind you would find in Italy: simple tomato sauce enriched with salt and basil and no overly rich thing. I tried the place 2 weeks ago and it was one of those rare times that I experienced something authentically Italian here in NY. I strongly recommend their pizza with vegetables (ortolana, i think) and their stracciatella gelato.

  3. I agree about the light taste of the pizza. Just fabulous!

  4. Just came back from there, was really excited about trying it out, but the service was the worst I have seen in a long time. No one even bother to ask if we wanted wine, or bothered to bring us bread. Even the appetizer that required no cooking took 25 mins. We were so tired of it that we skipped dessert (which was hard, considering what I had seen going in). Very disappointing, won't be going back.

  5. That's disappointing Carla - I'm sorry that you had that experience. Our visit was the complete opposite - very good service. I'd encourage you to try it again but I understand that it takes some time to forget a bad experience. I feel the same way with my visit to Balu - people keep telling me to try it again but I was so turned off last time that I'm not yet ready.



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