Tuesday, February 16, 2010

V-Day at Ornella Delivered the Goods

Valentine's Day turned out great this year - not only did I have a wonderful, relaxing day, Dan and I had an amazing dinner at one of my Astorian favorites, Ornella.  I was really looking forward to my meal and couldn't stop thinking about the imbustata, a dish that made a big impression on me last time. 

Below you'll find the highlights of our meal - including a couple of new things we tried:

Nduja Crostini - "This is something really special that you won't find anywhere else," Giuseppe, Ornella's co-owner explained.  So what is nduja?  If you think it sounds and looks like the word andouille, you're right.  The root of the word is the same, and even though this product is Italian, its influence is French.  A soft pork sausage originating from the Calabria region of Italy, it has a smoky flavor with a spicy twist.  It's absolutely delicious and mouth-warming, served on a crispy piece of bread that Dan and I devoured in seconds.  I loved its texture, which behaved very much like a spread.

Pizzoccheri Della Valtellina (Homemade Buckwheat Pasta) - Another interesting specialty that Ornella was particularly proud of was this delicate buckweat pasta.  The recipe comes from Northern Italy, very much influenced by the mountanous regions where savory cooking is common.  That's why the accompaniments for this slightly thick, noodle pasta were hearty vegetables such as cabbage and potatoes.  It might seem unusual to have these in a pasta dish, but they were delicious and certainly did a good job of warming us up.  The sauce was a light garlic/butter sauce that went down smoothly.

Baked Clams - A classic Italian appetizer, it happens to be one of Dan's favorites.  I tried it too and loved it - the clams were super fresh and the breadcrumb filling was golden brown and crispy on the outside but slightly doughy on the inside. 

Italian Wedding Soup - Since I went with the V-day prix-fixe menu, I chose this as my starter.  The broth had a comforting essence, which reminded me of chicken soup and the meatballs were nice and light.  Small bits of pastina and pretty green ribbons of escarole swam in this liquid of goodness.  The portion was more than generous and enough to take home for seconds.

Chicken Scarpariello - Dan wasn't disappointed with his entree, which is another one of his favorites.  The chicken was nicely browned around the edges and was smothered in a fragrant white wine sauce.  Although the meat was off the bone, I think they usually serve it on the bone for extra flavor.  In addition to the chicken, you also got some tasty bites of roasted Italian sausage and sweet roasted red peppers.  Dan nearly licked his plate clean and used the extra bread to mop up that gorgeous sauce.

Service and Cost:
Customer care is personal and warm, and I can honestly say that you're treated like family.  The minute you come in, you're greeted warmly and your bottle of vino that you bring along is uncorked and your glass is filled.  Dishes come out in good time and you're not rushed to leave, instead you feel comfortable to linger and chit chat to your heart's content.

Prices are reasonable and this place continues to be BYOB.  Brunch is served on weekends and a veggie menu has recently been rolled out.

3 Mmmms

Ornella Trattoria Italiana -29-17 23rd Avenue, Astoria NY 11105

N/W Train to Ditmars Blvd (last stop)


  1. I agree with all your comments. But have to emphasize how amazing their baked clams are. Real. Old fashioned style. You just don't get them like that anymore. What a treat!

  2. Looks delicious! Since reading your fabulous review, I can't wait to try this place!

  3. Yeah, definitely try it. I love it!



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