Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Vesta - Whoa Baby Jesus!
Vesta - 21-02 30th Avenue, Astoria NY 11102
N/W Train to 30th Avenue
After much hype from friends and colleagues, Dan and I finally tried Vesta. To say that we liked it is an understatement. Simply put, we fell in love. In love with its quaint, relaxed vibe and in love with its soulful dishes. I have a strong feeling that there will be seconds, thirds, fourths and fifths at Vesta...I think you get the picture.
There is no way to judge the amazingness of Vesta by looking at its exterior. While the outside is nice and new-looking, you'd never guess that what lies inside is a warm, cozy yet modern eatery. The decor is a collection of old and new--sleek mahogany tables backed by a wall of old family photographs or modern light fixtures illuminating a zaftig copper pig. It all works, making you feel relaxed and eager for your next bite or that next glass of vino.
Another aspect that we loved about Vesta was their music selection. We were pleasantly surprised to hear some of our favorite indie folk bands such as the Neutral Milk Hotel and the Shins. We'd never expect to hear something like this at a 30th Avenue joint, which would normally play loud, obnoxious techno. Note to self, the guys at Vesta know their music.
Meg gave Vesta's food rave reviews so I was expecting excellence--she knows what she's talking about and has a great palate. Not surprisingly, both Dan and I loved all of the dishes that came out of the kitchen that night. Served in a true feast fashion, we walked out with full bellies and fond memories. Here's what we tried:
Crostini - We had two varieties, which were both yummy. It has to be said that Dan who isn't a fan of ricotta cheese, absolutely adored the ricotta crostini. The cheese was milky, smooth and evidently fresh. It was embellished with fresh basil, which was a nice, soothing complement.
The other crostini plate included slightly al-dente chickpeas with good quality olive oil, basil, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. I enjoyed it very much and even put the chick peas on top of the ricotta. This crostini version was a lot more rustic, which I like.
Butternut Squash Soup with Pine Nuts - Although I just had butternut squash soup the night before, this one sounded wonderful to me, especially because it was cold and snowy outside. I was delighted when it came out, for it was steaming hot and had a beautiful ribbon of balsamic vinaigrette on top. I tasted it and my choice was once again affirmed--hearty, sweet yet savory from the crunchy pine nuts, it was a winter night's dream on a spoon. Dan tried it too and wholeheartedly agreed.
Fritto Misto - Dan is a lover of everything fried so this dish spoke to him. It included fried calamari, shrimp and round zucchini discs. I only tried the zucchini and loved them because they were thicker than the traditional zucchini fried sticks, which often fall apart. The roasted garlic aioli was a fragrant and creamy dipping sauce that enhanced the fried goodness. Dan didn't love it and went for the traditional marinara sauce instead.
The Pizza - We tried two different pizzas because we were unsure about portions--but after seeing how huge these pies were, we'll only share one next time. I ordered the Potato/Pancetta pie, which used light apple sauce in place of traditional marinara. It also included a sprinkling of goat cheese and caramelized onions, which were in the sauce. I've never seen a pizza this innovative and this light. The dough was perfect--super thin and not soggy after a few bites, just the way that I like it.
Dan ordered the Margherita pizza on whole wheat dough. He loved it and said that it tasted healthier but I liked my pie better. I thought that the whole wheat flavor was too strong and it didn't work for me. The sauce and the cheese were good though--everything was fresh, as seems to be the motto here.
Dessert - I cannot believe that we had room for dessert, but after seeing the impressive spread of "Baby Jesus Cake" and the panna cotta, we couldn't refuse. The Baby Jesus Cake was unlike anything I've ever tasted--it was a warm, crispy around the edges and slathered in butterscotch sauce with fresh whipped cream on the side. The dough was spectacular and reminded me of tender bread pudding. The sauce was a delight and Dan and I took turns dipping our forks into it and then into the whipped cream. It's hard to do this cake justice in words, so you're going to have to try it for yourself.
The panna cotta was also nothing short of spectacular. Topped with fruit soaked in sweet balsamic vinaigrette and mint on top, it created an essence of luxury and decadence. The panna cotta (cooked cream) itself was as smooth as silk and felt light and airy. I had a feeling that it wasn't low fat at all, but because it went down so easily, I couldn't help but finish the entire portion. It was also fun to double up a scoop of panna cotta with a piece of Baby Jesus Cake--indulgence at its best.
The Wine - Vesta offers a nice selection of wines in a variety of portions such as a shot, glass or a bottle. It's neat that they offer 2 oz wine shots because it allows you to try different types of wines--or if you're not a big drinker like me, you'll be happy with just a little taste.
Most of the wine that we drank was white. Both Dan and I had the Pinot Grigio '07, Stella Umbria and then I also tried the Orvieto '07, La Carraia, Umbria. Both were light and refreshing and slightly sweet, which I like. After dessert, we were served a sweet port that was lovely and a perfect way to end our meal. I was too full to finish mine but Dan loved it. Again, a shot was just the right portion--especially for a port, which tends to be syrupy-sweet.
Service and Cost:
Our waitstaff was fantastic--attentive, friendly and informative. Every time that I asked questions about the food, I was given an honest answer. The people who work here seem warm and really love what they do--you could tell that they put their all into this business.
In terms of cost, Vesta is reasonably priced. Appetizers range between $5.50 - $11.95, pizza costs between $8.95 - $11.95 for a huge pie and entrees range between $10.95 - $24.95. They also offer weekend brunch with all entrees under $11. The wine is also inexpensive and very good--a shot ranges between $2.50 - $4, a glass is $6.50 - $9.50 and bottles cost between $24 -$38.