Friday, February 18, 2011

Ornella - A Most Unusual Dessert Comes to Astoria


Going to Ornella is always a culinary adventure, which usually starts with good ol' curiosity for new food.  I never tire of hearing about what Giuseppe, Ornella's owner has resurrected from his home country of Italy, and for the record, it's always something exciting, innovative and far from run of the mill. 

During this visit, Bo and I tried three new delicacies, 2/3 of which were savory and the rest sweet.  I'll save the best for last but just know that it's unlike anything you've ever tried - that much I can guarantee.

Porchetta with Burrata - The Italian version of a spiced boneless pork roast, Ornella served it with simple, clean ingredients, rightly letting its unique flavor shine.  Served on a bed of peppery arugula, alongside fresh slices of tomato and creamy burrata cheese, it's Ornella's way of showcasing a deconstructed porchetta sandwich.  The meat was soft, delicate and flavored by the earthy spices stuck to its skin.  I liked that the pieces of porchetta had been sliced so thin, that what would normally be a heavy dish, actually felt very light and was a nice prelude to the rest of the meal.

Beef Cheek Stew with Cauliflower Puree - While conservative eaters would be hesitant to try this, I'm here to tell you that you shouldn't bat an eyelash before saying "yes."  A hearty, comforting mixture of slow cooked beef and mirepoix in a red wine reduction,  it's the perfect way to satisfy yourself after a long, hard day and not to mention a cold one.  I love the pairing of creamy cauliflower puree that's served on the side, adding a touch of lightness to a full bodied protein dish.  I appreciated this thoughtful side, which far surpassed the expected mashed potatoes. 

Sanguinaccio - Now the moment you've been waiting for, and the most unusual (but also the most delicious and coveted) part of this meal - the sanguinaccio (aka pig's blood pudding).  Now before you left click that mouse, I urge you to stop and pay full attention, for this was one of the most interesting and palate electrifying desserts I've ever had.

Resembling the consistency and look of Nutella (one of my all time favorite desserts), its flavors were actually a lot more complex and far more delicious.  Just to paint a full picture for you, the sanguinaccio is made up of chocolate, orange essence, milk and of course fresh pig's blood.  One can wonder why the latter ingredient is necessary but trust me, it makes the dish, adding a strength in texture and a richness in taste that can't be replicated with anything else.  Served alongside fried rectangular cookies called chiacchiere, also an Italian specialty, I call it a Nutella sandwich, flipped upside the head.

The sanguinaccio is featured on Ornella's Pork Night menu on Tuesday nights, where you can enjoy a four-course all pork menu for $50 (including wine).  If you want to learn more about sanguinaccio and its interesting history, read Astoria's very own, Brad Hawks' article on Grub Street.

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


N/Q Train to Ditmars


  1. Great post! I completely agree... it's always a (delicious) adventure. We should get t-shirts made saying "Ornella's dessert is bloody delicious" with a cartoon of you holding a fritter with sanguinaccio (Giuseppe swears left and right that you are the one person who truly seems to share his passion of the dessert, and says your name every time it comes up).

  2. Let's do it! Let's make those t-shirts :)!!!



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