Sun­ny­side’s Restau­rant Week

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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

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