Punta Dura - 41-15 34th Avenue, Astoria NY 11103
R/V/G Train to Steinway Street
Meg and I tried Punta Dura, Northern Italian restaurant last week. We didn't really know what to expect but were pleasantly showered with excellent service and scrumptiously, fresh food.
As most traditional Italian restaurants, Punta Dura doesn't differ dramatically in the decor department. The place is spacious with nice wooden tables and chairs, white tablecloths and large artwork, depicting the Italian countryside. While not overly inventive, the surroundings are comforting, nice and as mentioned earlier, familiar. There's a large bar in the front of the house, which is welcoming and conducive to hanging out if you're not looking for a formal meal.
The quality and freshness of the food impressed me. I especially loved the fish and would urge anyone and everyone to order it as an entree.
Mixed Salad with Chickpeas - Included in the day's specials, it sounded great to us. What sold us on it were the chickpeas and the balsamic glaze dressing. Overall, it was lovely--the veggies were fresh and the glaze was somewhat on the sweet side, yet still savory.
Grilled Branzino - Our waiter recommended the fish of the day, which we gladly chose. The fish of choice was grilled branzino, filleted and served with vegetables and potatoes. It was impressive to watch it being deboned tableside, which took a couple of minutes but it was worth the wait.
The texture of the fish was exquisite--soft, gentle and flaky, with a nice off-the-grill flavor. The seasoning was simple but perfect and the veggies and potatoes were a nice complement. I especially loved the potatoes, as they had a crispy crust and a soft, delectable interior.
Penne Piccate - Unlike its name suggests, this dish wasn't spicy--at least in my opinion. It consisted of al-dente penne pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and a sauce with dried red pepper flakes. I was very happy with it, as it was flavorful and uncomplicated--and I'd suggest it to safe, non-experimental eaters. A nice sprinkling of fresh parmigiano cheese topped off the yuminess, giving this dish more personality.
Dessert - We ordered two desserts--I got the Torta Frutti di Bosco specialty while Meg went for her favorite, Tiramisu. Both were delicious but I preferred the Torta Frutti di Bosco, as it offered something new and exciting. I adore ricotta cheese, which was the filling in this, topped with fresh blueberries and plenty of powdered sugar. I thought that they went a bit heavy on the latter but I wouldn't say that I minded.
Meg's Tiramisu was decadent and creamy but not too heavy. I only had a couple of spoonsfuls so it's hard to judge, but she finished her portion, making me believe that it was awesome.
Wine - Meg and I enjoyed a lovely white Croatian wine, which was a welcomed difference from the standard pinot grigio. It was dry with fruity undertones, offering the perfect way to enjoy this fabulous meal. I'd highly recommend asking about their imported wines.
Service and Cost:
The service was truly excellent. Our waiter, Jordan took his job seriously--he was thorough in explaining the specials to us, as well as any dishes we asked about. He was meticulous when serving our meal, arranging everything beautifully in front of us, making sure that we were 100% happy and comfortable. Because we asked, he provided a little history lesson about the wine and other dishes on the menu, which are a mix of Italian and Istrian cuisine.
Costs are moderate and worth the investment, given the good quality. Appetizers range between $8.75-$12.75, pasta dishes are between $12.75-$21.75, meat and fish entrees run between $14.75-$29.75. And as I mentioned last week, I have $20 gift certificates available. If you'd like to get your hands on one, email me your favorite Northern Italian recipe (firstname.lastname@example.org).