Friday, January 22, 2010

Da Franco - Italian Food with a Warm Fuzzy Feeling

Da Franco - 23-92 21st Street, Astoria NY 11105
N/W Train to Astoria Blvd

Last week, the Joey in Astoria ladies and I were invited to have dinner at Da Franco Ristorante.  While Meg and I have been there before, our food choices were limited and therefore we wanted to try it again.  Not only did we like it even better, I highly recommend it to all of you.

We tried a lot of new dishes this time around, most of them focusing on fresh pasta and Da Franco's freshly baked breads.  Choosing to go vegetarian, we not only wanted to accommodate our vegetarian friend Mackenzi, but we also wanted to be more health conscious.

Appetizers - Our first dish was a great salad called insalata di rucola con noci.  It contained fresh, peppery arugula, crunchy fennel, toasted walnuts, apples and generous shavings of parmigiano cheese.  I loved the fresh mint cider vinaigrette, which gave the veggies some zing and freshness.  It was a fabulous way to start the meal.

Other starters we devoured were the fried calamari, grilled vegetables and a big order of Da Franco's homemade focaccia bread.  All were excellent but I had a strong preference for the focaccia, which was puffy and beautiful, tasting like a soft cloud of goodness. I liked that it was seasoned with an aromatic Italian spice mix and that it was slightly salty.  Its overall taste improved even more when I dipped it into aged balsamic vinaigrette. 

Main Dishes - As I mentioned, we went purely vegetarian and ordered two vegetable based pastas.  One of them was the ravioli al profumo di tartufo and the other was the rigatoni alla siciliana

The ravioli was my clear favorite, as it contained aromatic mushrooms in a creamy sauce, embellished with a hint of truffle oil.  I loved that the pasta was super light and cooked to perfection - even though the sauce was creamy, it didn't feel heavy, and I could've polished off a portion of my own.  I'll definitely be getting this again next time around.

The rigatoni was tasty too, but was hard to see at first, as it was hiding under large pieces of grilled eggplant.  While I enjoyed this entree too, it was sharper on the palate--the overall taste a bit acidy for my liking.  The quality of everything was very good, I just preferred the mushroom pasta.


This is where Da Franco's took the meal to the next level.  We were awed and delighted to see that Franco, the owner, prepared a beautifully sugar-dusted Nutella pizza just for us.  Paired with a helping of freshly made zeppoles, Meg and I were in heaven, enjoying every bite. 

The other dessert we tried was the tiramisu, and it was simply out of this world.  Not sure if this was their regular portion, but it was really huge with beautifully soaked lady fingers lining the side of the dish.  It was embellished with two piroette cookies, fresh whipped cream and a cute little melon ball, giving it that extra splash of color.  The quality of the custard was amazing and not overly sweet.  I liked that it was a bit chocolatey, with a nice sprinkling of cocoa, but again it wasn't excessive.

Service and Cost:
Our server was a young woman from Italy who knew a lot about the menu and the cuisine in general.  We appreciated how nice and polite she was.  Warming up to us during the meal, she shared some stories about her favorite places to live and to eat. 

Franco, Da Franco's owner was lovely--revealing valuable insight about his pasta, bread and the wonderful cheeses, which are produced in his Queens-based mozzarella factory.

Costs are moderate to inexpensive, and as I announced last week, they're currently running a $19.95 weekday pasta special.  Other costs include:

Appetizers: $6.95-$14.95
Pasta: $9.95-$17.95
Meat: $14.95-$27.95

Fish: $17.95-$25.95
Pizza: $7.95-$14.95

3 Mmmms

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