Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pizza for Breakfast at Tufino

Tufino's new brunch pizzas will be available this coming weekend
Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana | 36-08 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria | 718-278-4800 |

Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana has only been open a few weeks on Ditmars in Astoria, but already Pizzaiolo and Owner Stephen Menna is changing things up a bit.  Besides a killer lunch special ($10 for a choice of soup with either a margherita pie, marinara pie, or panini), he has been gradually working on a fried version of his pizza, along with a few pie-shaped brunch specials.

The deep-fried and decadent version of the neapolitan pie begins with the hand-stretched crust dropped in the fryer, removed, crowned with sauce and fior di latte, then baked in the oven for the perfect marriage of toppings.  Excess oil is cooked off in the gourmet inferno, resulting in a crispy-coated, chewy-centered crust reminiscent of a large savory zeppole or funnel cake.  

The pizza is essentially an open-faced version of the fried calzone already available on the menu--a standout favorite of patrons--stuffed with fresh ricotta, fior di latte, prosciutto, and black pepper.  Other outrageously delicious fried treats at this friggitoria (Neapolitan fried treats shop) include enormous potato croquettes stuffed with fontina and prosciutto, grapefruit-sized arancini plumped with sausage, and a soppresata-stuffed loaf of breaded mozzarella.

But the real reason for rejoicing is Menna's new addition of brunch pizzas, available on the weekends beginning this coming Saturday.  The version above is topped with fontina, pancetta, crumbled Italian sausage, and leeks, with two eggs cracked directly on the pizza before baking.  Other variations will include a maple-sausage pie, literally a sausage pizza drizzled with maple syrup--all of which make pizza in the morning an actual event to anticipate rather than merely chilled leftovers from the night before!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Celebrate the 'Old New Year' at Bear this Monday

Sea-salt-cured salmon, with sunflower oil, smoked sprat with chile, sunflower seeds, and soy paste

The following is an expanded version of my previous post on Grub Street
Did you miss the first turn of the New Year, now reconsidering some of those resolutions that were just a tad lofty, or simply want another reason to feast and drink before committing to the treadmill? The nouveau European restaurant Bear in Long Island City will celebrate the "Old New Year" in true Russian-Ukrainian style on January 14 — that is, in regal commemoration of the Romanoff family, who kept time with the old, obsolete Julian calendar right up until the end. (The commissars installed the Gregorian calender in 1918.)

Ukrainian Borscht can be ordered with a 'vodka supplement' that includes a shot & lardo sandwich with horseradish
Scaling back from the 30-course dinner she served on December 31, chef Natasha Pogrebinsky will next week offer a three-course "Old New Year" dinner for $50 a head, which comes with wine. The menu includes hot borscht with salo, herring, and short rib Stroganoff served with gravy over a duck-fat-roasted potato and barrel-cured sauerkraut.

Marinated herring fillet with roasted beet, pickled onions, potato pure, dill and rye bread stick
The restaurant also recently introduced a seven-course chef's tasting menu, which costs $68 and comes with the potential to upgrade with wine or vodka pairings, and for à la carte snackers, there's a big menu of small bites that starts at $4.

The Charcuterie & Cheese Platter features cured and smoked Russian-style sopressata and mortadella on French country bread with sweet butter
Bear's "Old New Year" menu will be available from 7 to 10:30 p.m. this coming Monday; reservations are required.  Bear Restaurant, 12-14 31st Ave., Long Island City, Queens.  The following is just a taste of a few of my most recent images of some of the new dishes and tastings on Bear's winter menu.

Chicken hearts braised in French brandy with red onions, garlic, and parsley--served with guava marmalade, persimmon salad, pickled mushrooms, & habanero salsa
Veal dumplings in creamy dill gravy
Steak with 'Bear sauce'
Pork Loin sandwich, 'banh mi'-style, with carrot ribbons, cilantro, house pickles, sesame vinaigrette, and cumin-mustard seed pork loin... I am obsessed with this sandwich, and had it three times in one week!
Bear on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 4, 2013

Basil Expands Beyond the Brick Oven

Basil Brick Oven (28-17 Astoria Blvd., Astoria) -- closed Wednesdays

When Basil held its grand reopening last fall, patrons enjoyed a newly expanded dining room that nearly quadrupled the original seating capacity, along with a front cafe featuring a gelato counter.  But that was merely a small taste of what the team at Basil Brick Oven aspired to offer.  As the summer months approach, a glimpse out the back window reveals a rapidly developing outdoor space which will include backyard patio seating.

Chef "Danny"
With a strong additional culinary staff joining Executive Chef and Pizzaiolo Daniele Barbos, the giant new kitchen can also finally be put to good use.  And Barbos has recently been introducing several new menu items as weekend specials, while carefully editing which dishes will make the final cut.  Just before my trip home for Christmas break, I was offered a sneak peek at some of the new items.  You can check them out in person, as well, but only on the weekends for now.  If you  try something you love (which you inevitably will), make sure to voice your praise so your favorites make the final menu, which will be revealed in the next few weeks.

The 'fettucini aragosta' features al dente noodles tossed in a tangy diavolo sauce with buttery herbed breadcrumbs that add crunch, all beneath a freshly steamed succulent half lobster.

Enormous, tender breaded calamari rings are served with a haystack of zucchini and carrot ribbons.

Plump, porcini-encrusted diver sea scallops are wrapped in bacon and served in a trio over thick, creamy polenta with truffle shavings.

Perhaps my personal favorite was this outrageously delicious rendition of an Italian-American classic, 'homemade beef lasagna al forno' under bubbly blankets of baked mozzarella.

Chef Danny makes over 60 pounds of homemade mozzarella each day... enjoyed here in a panini.
Other new items include a filet of sole and mussels in a white wine caper sauce, ribeye steak, and an oven roasted rosemary salmon.  Guests can also expect to see a few new pizzas join the already over 40 pies currently on the menu, as well as a few other pastas, panini, and salads.  Be sure to save room for the popular tiramisu, served over a cocoa dust stencil-adorned plate.

Basil Brick Oven Pizza on Urbanspoon
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