My next search for Italian food took me to Astoria at a local restaurant called Ornella. Giuseppe & Ornella Viterale own this traditional almost Brooklyn style Italian trattoria. Since Giuseppe's father ran his own mill, he has created some of the most unique pastas I have ever seen on an Italian menu. Ornella is known for their pastas made out of Buckwheat, Chickpea and Chestnut flours amongst other dishes. Ornella doesn't try to "wow" you with its presentation or scene, but it tries to give you a personal experience that makes you feel like you're dining amongst friends. Ornella herself is a reason in itself to check out the restaurant. She's super friendly, personable and treats each guest as if they were family. Its a nice change from the over pretentious Italian restaurants I go to in Manhattan.
In addition to being a great host, Ornella also made sure no one leaves hungry. With that said, I did consume and obscene amount of food while there. To start I had a platter of fresh Sopressata & Provolone and Fresh burrata. The buffalo mozzarella and ricotta used in the dish was very fresh and it was a good way to start off the meal. Next I had the Vongole all' oreganata (baked clams with bread crumbs). This dish reminded me of a typical baked clams dish you would find in any Italian restaurant in Brooklyn. The Gamberi e fagioli (broiled shrimp & cannellini beans with garlic, rosemary, tomato, & olive oil) was a bittersweet dish. While I really liked the texture of the beans and the flavor of the dish, the shrimp either was a frozen shrimp or just wasn't cooked well. Ornella is also known for their Imbustata (pasta "envelope stuffed with veal, chicken, California spinach, wild mushrooms, mascarpone, & mozzarella in a tomato sauce) dish. The dish provided so much flavor it was almost a bit too heavy for my liking, but some do tend to love that type of heavy Italian cooking. The Polpette (homestyle meatballs with tomato sauce & basil) and Red snapper with olives, capers, onions, and a cherry tomato sauce suffered from the same problem. The flavors of the dish were all there, it was just a bit too heavy and after I took two bites I couldn't have anymore. On a more positive note the Braised beef short ribs with spring vegetables & gnocchi was a fantastic dish. The short ribs were cooked perfectly and the meat fell off the bone. The sauce was light but provided all those Italian flavors that Ornella gave us in their previous dishes. Also, the gnocchi was cooked very well and blew Nello's gnocchi out of the water.
I feel that Ornella's pastas deserve a paragraph to themselves since I just have never seen them anywhere else. Unfortunetly due to my nut allergy I wasn't able to sample the chestnut pasta, but my guest said that out of Ornella's three unique pastas the chestnut flour was the closest to having regular pasta. The Pasta di ceci (chickpea pasta with hearts of artichokes, black olives, capers, garlic, & oil) was a very thick pasta but I actually liked the texture with the artichokes. The Pizzoccheri all Fontina (buckwheat pasta with cabbage, potatoes, & Fontina) was really great. After sampling buckwheat pasta at Ornella I feel more restaurants should begin serving this dish (or I guess I'd just have to return to Ornella again to have it once more). I actually enjoyed the buckwheat pasta a bit more than regular pasta.
My experience at Ornella was interesting. I must say the kitchen is very creative in making their dishes and they have good intentions. Some dishes succeed better than others, the short ribs were great while Imbustata was a bit heavy. Like I said before, it was a good change from the usual Italian restaurants I visit (Da Silvano, Bar Pitti just to name a few) as its a much more down to earth environment with some new dishes I bet you haven't tried before!