Last week, I happened to be on a date and suggested that we head over to Ornella’s in Astoria. Â I hadn’t been in nearly two years, but remembered our meal was fabulous. Â When I walked in, I was shocked when the owner recognized me, and was also shocked that it was $10 pasta night – and I had never taken advantage of this deal since living in Astoria. Â Basically, every Thursday night, you can get a dish of pasta for just $10 at Ornella’s – if you add in meat, chicken or shrimp, it’s an additional charge. Â For $10, I got a plate of gnocchi with a gorgonzola sauce. Â The gnocchi was light and melted in your mouth, and the sauce was fantastic. Â I also sampled the pesto and the bolognese sauces as well – the gnocchi was the standout for me, with the bolognese as the runner-up.
I tried to finish my pasta, but was a few gnocchi short from a clean plate – probably because I was full from the duck meatballs that we had to start. Â The owner, Giuseppe, kindly sent over dessert – both the tiramisu and the chocolate eggplant cake we outlined below. Â The tiramisu was very moist, and the eggplant cake still gets me every time – such a combination you would never think of.
If you want to head out to Astoria for Ornella’s, my suggestion is either tonight for the $14.95 steak night (served with potatoes and veggies), or the $10 pasta night on Thursday. Â Giuseppe warned us that if interested, you may want to make some reservations! Check out the original review below.
Ornellaâ€™s Has It All: Great Family, Culture and Food
How do I begin this post? The problem I face is that I know my words will not be able to convey how wonderfulÂ Ornella TrattoriaÂ is, and I need you to understand that this is a special place. It goes beyond the food because you are welcomed into the Viterale family (itâ€™s named after the matriarch, Ornella) when you dine at Ornellaâ€™s, and the familial feeling and stories shared make the whole experience even better.
We were able to sample a bunch of dishes several weeks ago thanks to our friend Brad atÂ Amuse*BoucheÂ (he covered his initial meal at Ornellaâ€™s in a postÂ here), and we are incredibly grateful. Seated with several other online editors and bloggers, we were in for a real treat. I could go on for a while about how gracious and lovely the Viterale family is, but I may bore you and you should just experience them for yourself. Instead, Iâ€™m going to dive right into the food (Lauraâ€™s thoughts in italics,Â McKennaâ€™s opinion simply noted as [+], [-] or [?] â€“ she likes to give simple likes, dislikes and mixed opinions.
Meats and Cheeses
I canâ€™t pretend to remember the name of every meat and cheese sampled at the beginning of our meal, but I can tell you that I particularly liked the aged soppersata and borrata cheese (an offshoot of mozzarella).Â The borrata cheese is heaven. Iâ€™m not a fan of sharper cheese, so this soft and milder cheese was perfect for me.Â [+ for both].
Home baked breads (sourdough, focaccia, & chestnut breads)
Iâ€™m a carbovore, so this was all awesome. The breads were fresh and full of flavor, and this was the first time I tried chestnut bread. I didnâ€™t think it was anything truly remarkable, but it was soft and good. Iâ€™d probably go for more focaccia if given the choice. [+]
Vongole allâ€™ oreganata (baked little neck clams with garlic, parsley, bread crumbs, butter, & lemon zest)
I loved the clams. Iâ€™m a huge fan of clams oreganata (or anything with garlic, bread crumbs and butter, letâ€™sÂ get real here), so this was right up my alley and I could have had a whole platter myself.Â The breading and seasoning was good but it was a little on the salty side for me. But then again, I donâ€™t like clams much.Â [+, McKenna did note that these are not the way she’s used to having clams prepared, but she did like them].
Gamberi e fagioli (broiled shrimp & cannellini beans with garlic, rosemary, tomato, & olive oil)
I like shrimp and I like beans, so I liked this dish. It was a nice, light appetizer for the table.Â This reminded me of a Northern Italian dish and my only complaint is that I wish there were even more shrimp to eat.Â [+]
Broccoli di Rape (broccoli rabe with chilies, roasted garlic, & olive oil)
I hate broccoli rabe (too bitter for me), so I didnâ€™t even try it. Laura and McKenna didnâ€™t write a note about it so maybe we were all really healthy and decided to forgo vegetables for the eveningâ€¦
Imbustata (pasta â€œenvelope stuffed with veal, chicken, california spinach, wild mushrooms, mascarpone, & mozzarella in a light tomato sauce)
Oh my Godâ€¦oh my God. This was unbelievable. The portions are usually about four times the size of what we were served, and as far as Iâ€™m concerned, the bigger the better. This was a truly unique and outstanding dish blending delicious flavors and textures in an envelope of pasta. This was my heaven.Â I thought this dish was phenomenal as well. Everything worked, especially the red sauce, and it was a favorite across the table.Â [+]
Polpette (homestyle meatballs with tomato sauce & basil)
As Iâ€™ve notedÂ before, my dad simply makes the best meatballs. But I have to say that these ranked up there as some of the best Iâ€™ve tried.Â These were a little too garlicky for me, if thatâ€™s possible, although I did note that they were the softest and most aromatic balls Iâ€™ve experienced.Â Hmm, Laura, weâ€™re not that kind of website.Â [+]
Red snapper with olives, capers, onions, and a cherry tomato sauce
We were split on this one. Although I donâ€™t like black olives, I thought this was a fantastic dish and great mix of flavors.Â I think I took a break during this course.Â [-]
Braised beef short ribs with spring vegetables & gnocchi
So I wouldnâ€™t think that braised beef short ribs and gnocchi would be a good pair, but in fact it was wonderful. Iâ€™m so glad I had the chance to try it because I wouldnâ€™t have ordered it off the menu, but now that I know how delicious it is, Iâ€™ll be sure to get it again and again.Â This was surprisingly light and very flavorful. As Caryn said, â€œI just like to put the gnocchi on my tongue and let it sit for a bit.â€[+, McKenna thought it tasted like Irish stew, in a very good way]
Pollo parmigiano with fior di latte mozzarella & tomato sauce
Very good, but also standard. With so many unique dishes served up as Ornellaâ€™s, I would probably pass on this in the future. But donâ€™t get me wrong, it was very good.Â The best part of this dish was the fresh mozzarella cheese used. It broke apart in your mouth in a way that told you it wasnâ€™t made with preservatives.Â [+]
Pasta di ceci (chickpea pasta with hearts of artichokes, black olives, capers, garlic, & oil)
I thought was particularly delicious. I heard rumors of trying chickpea pasta at Ornellaâ€™s, and as a huge fan of hummus I was naturally intrigued. While it didnâ€™t taste quite like hummus (and thatâ€™s probably a good thing in this case), it was distinctly different from traditional wheat pasta and I liked it quite a lot.Â I too liked the chickpea pasta and the vegetables served with it, but the focus was definitely on the chickpea pasta.Â [+, although it was a little too al dente for me]
Pizzoccheri all Fontina (buckwheat pasta with cabbage, potatoes, & Fontina)
My memory is starting to get a little fuzzy with these three pasta dishes. This wasnâ€™t my favorite of the night, but thatâ€™s fine. I think there wasÂ moreÂ than enough food to go around.Â I wasnâ€™t the biggest fan either mainly because it fell apart in my mouth, but not in a good way like the mozzarella in the chicken parm.Â [-]
Pasta di Castagna (chestnut pasta with shrimp, arugula, cherry tomatoes, garlic, & oil)
I have to say that as with the chestnut bread, I didnâ€™t notice anything special about this pasta. If you didnâ€™t tell me it was made from chestnuts I probably wouldnâ€™t have noticed the difference. That said, it was still very tasty, but I guess I was just expecting a wow-factor.Â I really liked this one, mostly because of the shrimp and other ingredients.Â [+, by far McKenna’s favorite of the three pastas]
Torta di Melanzane (eggplant cake)
Believe it or not, this was a dessert. I would never think to use eggplant in a cake, but if we use carrots and zucchini to make sweet breads and cakes, I guess itâ€™s not too out of the ordinary. I loved the texture of the cake as well as the taste. Again, Ornellaâ€™s cooked up something unique and it paid off.Â I thought this was good too, but I was getting a little too full to try anything more than a nibble at this point.Â
I adore lemon-flavored desserts so this was perfect for me; a nice balance of tart and sweet.Â I was too full, but this was good too.Â [+]
Tiramisu is my momâ€™s favorite dessert, and while I donâ€™t love it quite like she does, I did really enjoy this tiramisu.Â Delicious again.Â [+]
Cheesecake (made with mascarpone cheese)
I can go either way with cheesecake and itâ€™s clear that we hit the point of full several courses ago, so the idea of eating heavy cheesecake was a bit nauseating. However, I did squeeze in a very small bite and thought it was pretty good.Â I like Italian cheesecake, but for some reason this one tasted too much like lemon rinds to me.Â [+]
Espresso & Limoncello