(Diavola pizza with fior latte mozzarella, hot sopressata, scallions, kalamata olives, & chili)
Trattoria El Greco (36-19 30th Ave., Astoria)
Walking down 30th Ave for the past few months, Astorians have watched the scaffolding come and go, various signs and architects' renderings suggesting the decor of the new trattoria featuring brick oven pizza, and even confusing crowds inside for soft openings and training sessions while yet closed to the general public.
Alas, the wait is finally over. Trattoria El Greco officially opened for lunch today. And considering my apparent infatuation with pizza, pasta, and anything Italian, you better believe I woke up this morning with every intention of being one of their charter customers (yes, I've been calling almost daily--okay, stalking them for an opening date--since the moment I first saw signs of human life inside).
My lunch date, Travis Barr (of Sunday Morning Mimosa fame), and I arrived to a moderately crowded dining room, and were seated immediately. "Look, Bradley Hawks," Travis whispered... "the other bloggers are here to beat you to the punch." The tables around us were full of white collar suits, and many-an-open-laptop. They may have been blogging while they ate, but I didn't see anyone obsessively snapping photos of their food (do you know how agonizing it is when you just want to taste that first slice of pizza, but want to get the right angle and lighting first?)
Though within only the first few hours exposed to public critique, these folks were on top of their game. Our server made a few great recommendations, and even offered to store our leftover appetizers while we eagerly awaited the entrees.
The Diavola pizza (pictured at the top of this post) was splendidly scrumptious, though devilishly spicy, as the name implies. One of the things that initially caught my eye on the take-out menu they've been distributing for about a week now, was the list of ingredients used for their pizzas: D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes (indicating the designation of origin is protected, basically guaranteeing they have been grown in Italy), Type "00" imported flour (from softer wheat with a lower gluten content), and fior di latte mozzarella (meaning from cow's milk, rather than buffalo). According to an EU law passed in 2009, these are the requirements for a pizza to be considered authentic Italian.
Though the Vera Pizza Napoletana (true Neapolitan pizza) status only really applies to margherita or marinara pizza, El Greco's pizza certainly belongs in the category. The crust was delicious, though a bit on the doughy side toward the center (my guess would be too low of an oven temperature or the distance of the pies from the heat source, just looking at the pizza oven compared with others I've seen; Neapolitan pies are cooked at over 800ªF for merely 90 seconds). But it's a tasty pie, nonetheless.
The carpaccio was a most delicately sliced filet mignon, with arugula, artichokes, and parmigiano... tender, fresh, and the perfect starter.
Pumpkin amaretto ravioli in a sage & brown butter sauce, homemade and boiled to al dente perfection.
Fresh pappardelle pasta with homemade meat ragu, porcini mushrooms, and peas.
The chocolate-espresso flan with caramel sauce was sinfully remarkable, thick & smooth.
The marbled chocolate cup of seasonal berries & zabaglione was a delicate and divine way to end our meal on a sweet note.
Trattoria El Greco is most certainly a breath of fresh air on Astoria's Grand Ave., and will undoubtedly find pedestrian success, in particular, given its lack of much competition other than slice shops along 30th Ave between the subway and Steinway. I most definitely recommend a visit to this tasty newcomer, though my heart and loyalty remain around the corner and down the block with Ornella Trattoria. Since I can't eat there every time, you might find me here on the days in between.