- Cuisine: Italian
- Location: 29-17 23rd Ave. - Astoria, NY 11105
- Pricing: $$
- What's delicious: House-cured prosciutto, Duck Meatballs, Pasta Di Castagna
- Perfect for: Something different in Greek Astoria - destination-worthy dining - date night - comfort food cravings
An Italian trattoria in Astoria?
For the most authentic culinary experiences, it’s often best to leave the isle of Manhattan and venture east. To Brooklyn or Queens...
Forgoing the obvious (Greek cuisine) during my recent jaunt to Astoria, my friend and I opted instead for Italian. In the form of a charming trattoria named Ornella.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by eccentric executive chef and owner, Giuseppe Viterale who, come to find out, named the restaurant after his beloved wife, Ornella. And if that wasn't cute enough, we also learned that Giuseppe's four sons work by his side. A true family affair! Awwwwe.
"To me," Giuseppe said (in his thick Italian accent) as he sat me and my guest, "the art of food lies more in the ingredients than in the presentation." Given this prerogative, we were quite excited for our meal.
In an effort to sample as many dishes on the menu as possible, we decided to share nine plates - under the guidance of Giuseppe, of course! The stand outs included:
Unlike this particular version that he aged himself for a mere five months, Giuseppe noted that, typically, the thinly-sliced ham should continue to ripen for three months. However, I appreciated its smooth, moist, and much less salty flavor (than, perhaps, one aged for the full eight months).
Duck Meatballs Filled with cheese in a brandy-orange reduction sauce with raisins
Stuffed with three different cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella and fontina) - which, aside from aiding to create a moister 'ball also helped cut the duck's traditional "gamey" flavor - these meatballs were nothing short of outstanding. Trust me when I say that these are an absolute MUST when visiting Ornella!
Pasta Di Castagna Chestnut flour pasta in a cream and pistachio sauce with truffle oil
Made with chestnut flour, this pasta revealed a more "well done" as opposed to "al dente" texture. Rich and unctuous, there was a mysterious je ne sais quoi that made this dish luxuriously rich. Hell, I would return to Ornella for this pasta, alone!
Pizzoccheri Buckwheat pasta with cabbage, potatoes, and fontina cheese
Did you know that this dish is listed in Mimi Sheraton's 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover's Life List? 'Nuff said.
Stuffed Pork Chop With mushrooms, prosciutto, fontina cheese, and Madeira wine sauce (served with pasta)
With barely any room left in my stomach, I was only able to take two bites of this glorious stuffed chop. However, those two forkfuls just may have been the best of the entire meal! Surrendering myself, Giuseppe gladly packed the remainder of the dish in a doggie-bag and, hours later, I devoured it for dinner.
Living in NYC and having been to plenty of Italian restaurants - everything from casual to fancy-pants - Ornella has shot to the top of my "favorites" list. It is, without a doubt, an incredibly special and destination-worthy venue for even the snobbiest of foodies.
Next time you find yourself in Astoria, do what we did: Forgo Greek and make an Italian detour at Ornella. You'll be glad you did!
Until we eat again,
The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle