319 Graham Avenue
As Mathieu Palombino, the genius behind brick-oven pizza sensation MOTORINO in Williamsburg told us recently, “Brooklyn is a place for smaller budgets and big ideas.” In fact, that sensibility is exactly what is at the heart of this delightfully casual pizzeria, a testament to the fact that a place doesn’t necessarily have to be fancy to have class. Diners at MOTORINO are seated comfortably close together, cantina-style, as they avail themselves of some of the freshest and choicest cured meats and cheeses for starters – for example, an assortment of Prosciutto di Parma, Speck, Bresaola, or maybe some Capra Sarda, Piave Vecchio or Taleggio to whet your appetite. But the star here at MOTORINO (in addition, of course, to Palombino and that gorgeous wood-fired brick oven!) is the pizza: chewy and doughy and perfectly charred, a distinct reminder that in the very best incarnations, pizza is bread after all – is it not? With mozzarella made fresh every morning, there are no bad selections here, but our favorites actually run from the simple - the Margherita (Fior di Latte/Tomato/Basil) - to the sublime - their top-of-the-line Buffaline (Mozzarella di Bufala/Olive Oil/Raw Basil/Sea Salt). (FYI, MOTORINO is still awaiting their liquor license, but THE BOTTLE SHOPPE down the street has a decent selection of wines available for purchase.)
73-25 Woodhaven Boulevard
While we have to admit that the soups, salads, and sandwiches here are quite good, they’re also rather pricy, given the economic climate that’s o’ertaken us recently and doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. However, having said that, they’re probably not the reason you really oughtta be coming here, anyway, because what PANERA BREAD does best is breakfast. Looking for a great cup of coffee and a muffin or a scone? PANERA BREAD has a whole host of baked goods, sweet rolls, mini bundt cakes, artisanal pastries, etc., all in the neighborhood of about $2 per. But what makes this oasis of calm stand out amid the hustle and bustle of the SPORTS AUTHORITY HOME DEPOT STAPLES mega-plex that are its immediate environs is how spacious and accommodating the place is. If you’re looking to spread out, if you’re looking to linger - whether with your laptop, or that special friend from work, let’s say - this is the place to go. No one will rush you – in fact, no one will find you! And sometimes, that’s a good thing.
108-50 Queens Boulevard
Fun, fun, fun is what this fantastic Forest Hills eatery is all about. That, and letting you decide what goes on your burger, what goes on your fries, what goes in your shake, etc. Kind of a throwback burger joint, CHEEBURGER CHEEBURGER is the perfect destination for the entire family, not just because of its fresh Black Angus Beef, or fresh-cut fries and onion rings, but because you’re the boss - you pick the cheese, Provolone, Feta, Swiss, Cheddar and more! You pick the toppings, Marinara Sauce, Teriyaki Sauce, Bacon, Sauteed Onions, Roasted Red Peppers. You pick your dipping sauce, Creamy Jalapeno, Habanero Jelly, Texas Horseradish. Oh, and probably our favorite thing about the place? Their unbelievable Shakes and Malts. Whatever combination you decide (and there are 378,000 of ‘em!) - Coconut, Cinnamon, Bananas Foster, Snickers, White Chocolate, etc. - rest assured, these shakes are so thick your straw will stand up straight right in the center of your glass. Hey, get over there and try it yourself! (By the way, kids especially should know that if you manage to make your way through their Famous Pounder (20 oz. before cooking!), CHEEBURGER CHEEBURGER alerts all of your fellow diners to your accomplishment, takes your photograph right then and there, and enshrines you on their wall of fame for posterity – just ask Pamela here!)
55-01 69th Street
We flipped for the ice cream at ISABELLA’S when they first opened out of their humble little corner shop window on 69th Street. It’s creamy, it’s fresh, and its flavors - Peach, Vanilla, Strawberry, etc. - stand out like few others in our area. Not only that, but they make a fantastic Egg Cream here, too, the old-fashioned Brooklyn kind, the way they used to at places called soda fountains and ice cream parlors, remember? Anyway, ISABELLA’S has now taken the next step, letting us inside with expanded seating for a real family friendly atmosphere, and adding items like Hale and Hearty Soups to their menu. And you know what, we couldn’t be more pleased. Good food, friendly service, reasonable prices - isn’t that what it’s all about, folks?
105-07 Metropolitan Avenue
There’s a casual elegance to this Forest Hills restaurant that serves as the perfect ambience for its authentic Argentinean cuisine. And while their empanada appetizers are particularly memorable, make no mistake - PAMPAS ARGENTINAS is a parillada, or steakhouse. Which is why it ought to be dishes like the Skirt Steak, Strip Steak, Flank Steak or Short Ribs that are gracing your plate here. Wait, even better, why not try out their Pampas Mixed Grill, which at $39.90 for two is an incredible bargain, trust us on this! (Oh, and one last word of advice – save room for their home-made flan, a caramel custard dessert that’ll definitely have you coming back for more!)
Long Island City
46-35 Vernon Boulevard
It was at first the home-made gelato and exquisite Italian pastries that lured us inside what was once merely a delightful little cafe on Vernon Boulevard. But now that MANDUCATI’S RUSTICA has expanded into its accommodating brick-walled dining room, it’s their red sauce and home-made pasta specialties that keep us coming back. Proprietor Gianna Cerbone, you see, is the daughter of Vincenzo and Ida Cerbone of the renowned MANDUCATI’S on Jackson Avenue, and now that Gianna’s opened up on her own, she’s introducing the very best of traditional Italian cuisine - none of this nuova cucina, thank you very much - to an entirely new generation. (And you know what, she even gives cooking classes!)
RADEGAST HALL & BIERGARTEN
113 North 3rd Street
In the rapidly developing, ever-evolving neighborhood that graces the Williamsburg waterfront, RADEGAST HALL is without question one of the best uses of space around – on a level far beyond even a couple of our former favorites like GALAPAGOS or PLANET THAI. As a top-notch performance venue and restaurant in its own right, with some excellent Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Braised Rabbit, Veal Schnitzel and the like (and great potato salad!), where RADEGAST really shines is in their beer menu, one of the best in the city. Bottles of standouts like Dinkel Acker, Grimbergen, Lindemans, Uerige, etc., but even more impressively, pints, liters and pitchers of special drafts like BrouCzech, Erdinger Hefe-Weizen, Grosser Pilsner, Radeberger, and many more. It goes without saying that we can’t wait for the weather to get warmer again so we can avail ourselves again of the biergarten proper!