Sunnyside’s Restaurant Week
SUNNYSIDE is a middle class neighborhood in New York City borough of Queens. I see a little of the world in this town with all the ethnicities that have settled in this friendly place—Latin Americans (Colombians, Ecuadorians, Dominican, Salvadorans), Peruvians, Jewish, Armenians, Romanians, Turkish, Nepali, Asians (Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos), Indians, Mexicans, Italians and more Europeans. This is not surprising since the area has easy access to the heart of the Big Apple, Manhattan, just across Queensboro Bridge. In fact, it is only a 15-minute train ride to the world-famous Times Square, a convenience my daughter Patricia enjoys since she works in the area. The diversity of the neighborhood translates to incredible variety of cuisines.
For the fifth year now, this vibrant neighborhood kicked off the weeklong Sunnyside Restaurant Week from Oct. 1 to 7, with 29 restaurants offering a three-course dinner for $25. A few offered a Special Lunch menu. At the last minute, I invited Marivir Montebon and her daughter Nikki for a late lunch last Sunday after I attended a special noontime Mass I offered for my late Nanay. I missed the apple-picking trip with Patricia and her rascals that day but it was good to spend a quiet, lazy afternoon for a change.
Patricia highly recommended dining at SoleLuna, an Italian restaurant two blocks down their apartment along 40th street and Queens Blvd., just across the train station. This restaurant was born out of a long friendship among young Italians whose common pursuit is food and restaurant. Valerio Marchi hails from Milan and seems to have the experience (he had a restaurant in Ibiza before coming to New York) and business acumen (being also an accountant), among the group. Sisters Francesca and Gina Mastrovito, both trained in the culinary and restaurant work, are from Cisternino in Puglia Southern Italy, renowned for its rolling olive orchards and olive oil The partners met and worked together in upscale Bottega del Vino in New York City in 2007. In May 2015, they finally decided to open their own restaurant, SoleLuna, in Sunnyside. Valerio whom I met the day before to make our reservations was off that Sunday. Gina and Francesca who were very friendly attended to us. Their warmth, typical of Italians, welcomed us. A lively conversation ensued with the sisters relating their stories about SoleLuna. I asked for a glass of Proseco while we made our choices from the prix-fixe lunch menu. The Carpaccio di Carne, paper thin slices of filet mignon topped with baby arugula and shaved parmigiano certainly amused our palates. Marivir chose to have the Arancini or stuffed rice ball. This is a traditional Sicilian favorite in honor of the Feast of Sta. Lucia on Dec. 13 when bread and pasta are not eaten. It also commemorates the arrival of grain supply in 1646 relieving a severe famine. The rice balls are usually filled with meat, mozzarella or peas, coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Pasta was the order of the day. Nikki and I enjoyed the Tagliolini alle Cozze or homemade spaghetti with mussels in cherry tomato sauce. Marivir had the Penne Arrabbiata in spicy tomato sauce. Arrabbiata is Italian for “angry.” The great food and conversation ended with a scrumptious Mixed Berry Tart (red, blue, black berries, strawberries and raspberries). Molto Bene!
CARPACCIO di Carne TAGLIOLINI alle Cozze MIXED Berries Tart FRANCESCA Mastrovito, Chef Marco, Gina Mastrovito and the writer at the Soleluna Bar PENNE Arrabbiata ARANCINI or Rice balls of the Day