Tonight was another venture out to the area around Vernon Blvd. There are so many restaurants here to try. This one here is an Italian restaurant near Gantry park. There are a lot of cars for some reason compared to other parts of Long Island City. The restaurant was able to accommodate us as a pair of walk-ins at around 6:30 PM on a Saturday evening easily.
In our second visit, we were able to walk in at 6:30 PM on a Friday evening very easily.
Ambiance & Service
The ambiance is pretty loud if you sit near the bar, so this restaurant may not be the best for an intimate dinner.
In our second visit, we sat in the dining room area where you can see the back of the Pepsi sign and a bit of the outdoor ambiance. The music was a bit loud, but it was not uncomfortable. Each of the tables had these touch-based LED lamps. The service was quite good, albeit I think for some they may feel rushed. They asked frequently if we were done with dishes, but they also filled our waters without us ever asking.
We got a glass of riesling and a cocktail called the maiella, which is named after the restaurant. This has fris vodka carpano, a strawberry “fruit rollup”, and fig lemon club soda. It was sweet and fizzy in a good way.
They also gave us complimentary bread with what tasted like a sun dried tomato paste with olive oil. The bread came out warm and soft, and it was delicious dipping it into the dip.
Next was the Maiella tagliere. This came with a selection of imported charcuterie which includes parma proscuitto, mortadella con pistachio, parma cotto, speck, cacciatorini, ricotta di bufala, burrata, artichokes, and bell peppers. Surprisingly, they gave you a lot of options, albeit a few slices of each. The olives were SUPER salty, so be forewarned there. The meats in general were all pretty good. There were some traces of truffle oil laced on some of the meats.
The spaghettoni al pomodoro came with gragnano spaghettoni, grilled shrimp, san marzano tomatoes, and basil. The pasta was cooked so perfectly! It was like a super thick spaghetti with an incredible amount of bounce to it. The grilled shrimp had a very nice char taste to it. The san marzano tomatoes and basil really made the sauce come to life. The tomato sauce was very sharp and subtly acidic but very straight forward and flavorful. We really liked this dish a lot and could easily eat another plate.
The last dish of the night was the bistecca di manzo, which was basically a 36 oz prime ribeye cowboy steak, polenta frittes, and broccoli rabe. We ordered this medium rare, but it came out a medium. The steak itself was pretty uneventful and unflavored. It could use some steak sauce or just more salt to add some more flavor. The sides though were good. If only they didn’t overcook and underseason the steak, this dish would’ve been a sure recommendation.
Despite the restaurant seeming like a semi-formal venue, they were welcoming to people in more casual clothing. The service was attentive, although the pace of some of the dishes were slightly slow.
Updated March 31, 2023 - our second visit
The Cabernet Sauvignon ($16 - left) came from Joseph Carr, Paso Robles, CA, 2016. The description on the drinks menu describes this as “slightly smoked cabernet with leather and black currant flavors”. I thought this was just OK. It was a pretty light red with some fruity flavor, but definitely less body than desired.
The Innamorarsi ($16 - right) came with nolets gin, creme de cassis, and lemon juice prosecco spuma. I took a sip of this, and as usual, I find my partner’s palette a bit sweet for me. We both felt that the drink was strong and not quite as smooth as desired.
The complimentary bread was nice. It was already drenched in olive oil and salted.
The Polpo Al Carbone ($24) came with roasted potato, taggliasca olives, confit tomato, salsa verde, and a fennel puree. This was really good. The octopus legs were very tender, and the sauce medley was an excellent complement. The ingredients are all a tried and proven mix that work well with octopus. You get a nice blend of starch, sour, and rustic notes that make it nice to eat.
The Cacio E Pepe ($27) was prepared table side with D.O.P. black label pecorino roman and coarse black pepper. I’m usually not a person that cares for table side service, but just seeing the chef mix the noodles in a fresh cheese tub was so salivating. They were really scraping the cheese and made sure you got some nice cheese chunks in there. While they’re mixing it around, he’s also warming up the plate. When he puts the noodle/sauce mix onto the plate, it’s hot and the cheese bubbles. The noodles were probably just subtly overcooked, but the texture was very delicious. It had that doughy bounce that you get with fresh pasta. The sauce was a perfect blend of pecorino cheesy flavors with noticeable black pepper that was not overbearing. We scraped up the plate and made sure there was nothing left.
The Porkchop & Peppers ($31) came with a berkshire porkchop, salsa rossa, and sweet & sour peppers. The pork chop was cooked a perfect medium-plus, which is between medium and medium-well. I had asked the waiter what do they recommend, and they said “medium well”. I was afraid they might overcook it, so I compromised. The sauce was quite delightful. It was tart with some sweet and sour notes. I had some buffalo flavor tingling on my tongue. The sour notes reminded me of those cherry peppers you put on Italian beef sandwiches. The pork chop was very juicy and had an excellent sear to it. Don’t forget to eat the rest of the meat off the bone.
Updated September 14, 2023 - our third visit
The Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon ($16 - left) came from Sonoma County, CA 2021. This was a slightly smoked cabernet with leather and black currant flavors, and it was surprisingly one of the better cabernets I’ve had.
The Beach Vibes ($16 - right) came with Dos Maderas 5+5 rum, ten to one, fernet branca, pineapple coconut crema, lemon juice, and vanilla. I was not a fan of this because it was heavily coconut flavored.
The Eggplant Carrozza ($16) was basically fried eggplant. The crust was quite delicious, and the sauce and how it was arranged was great too.
The Pollo alla Marsala ($29) was pan seared giannone chicken, marsala zabaglione, roasted mushrooms, and marsala jus. I did not have any of this due to mushrooms, but my partner said the chicken was sous vide, so it can’t really go wrong here. The chicken was very juicy and tender, and of course full of that mushroom flavor.
The Tagliata Di Manzo ($32) came with arugula, aged balsamic, parmigiano, salsa verde, cherry tomato, and prime flatiron steak cooked medium rare. Everything on this plate was very good.
For an Italian restaurant in the Long Island City area, this definitely seems like a good place to sample pasta dishes. I guess you could arguably say this is the Lilia’s of LIC. I would be a little hesitant though ordering the cowboy steak and instead opt for a different meat that is less likely to be ruined.
In our second and third visit, we are still quite pleased by this restaurant’s consistency a few years later. It’s a restaurant we would not hesitate to bring guests to.
For Restaurant Week, if you want to start at the bar for Happy Hour, and then move to the dining area, you cannot participate in both.
Although it does kind of suck that this Elitist couldn’t take advantage of the deals in both areas, their review was based almost entirely on this situation.
I ordered the Fettuccine Maiella which is made table side, tossed in a cheese wheel and topped with truffles. It was delicious but a little too cheesy.
Usually when people pasta rolled in a cheese wheel, they think of cheese heaven but forget how overpowering strong cheeses can be.
For roughly half of our meal there were people yelling at the bar up front over whatever event was going on. As far as we could tell there were no attempts to calm things down.
Let’s just think about this for a second. Have you ever been to a restaurant where staff quieted people around the bars during a major event on the TVs?
The Ok: The food wasn’t anything special. We got the Calamari, the veal meatballs, and shrimp to start. For entrees we got the cavatelli, rigatoni, and chicken parm. All ok but again, nothing special.
This Yelper ordered nothing special.
- Sep 14, 2023 - Third visit and added some additional food items.
- Mar 31, 2023 - Second visit and added more food with prices.
- Feb 22, 2020 - Initial revision.