Getting a little taste of Forest Hills
by Michael Perlman
Nov 05, 2013 | 2672 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Carmine Polito, Owner of Portofino Ristorante at Taste of Forest Hills
Carmine Polito, Owner of Portofino Ristorante at Taste of Forest Hills
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Founder Gary Grunner & Chair Joseph Keane of Taste of Forest Hills_cmyk
Founder Gary Grunner & Chair Joseph Keane of Taste of Forest Hills_cmyk
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A culinary tradition is heating up in Forest Hills Gardens.

The Church-In-The-Gardens Community House, in unison with local restaurants, hosted the 9th annual Taste of Forest Hills from 1 to 4 p.m. on November 2. Fourteen restaurants set up shop in the elegantly appointed Smith Hall for guests who feasted on samples of some menu highlights and engaged in conversation with chefs and restaurant owners.

Each year, local favorites are joined by two or three recently opened or newly participating restaurants. This year’s restaurants were Banter Irish Bar and Kitchen, Bonfire Grill, Corfu Grill, Danny Brown Wine Bar and Kitchen, Dee’s Brick Oven Pizza, Forest Hills Station House, Jack and Nellie’s, La Dolce Italia Bakery, La Vigna, Moca Asian Bistro, Portofino Ristorante, The Family Restaurant, The Flying Pig and Wafa’s.

“I wanted to introduce the community to local restaurateurs, promote restaurants, showcase their food, and raise money for the Community House,” said Gary Grunner, who first came up with the idea for the event.

Joseph Keane, the chairman of Taste of Forest Hills, described the event as a win-win for the restaurants and the community.

“We raise between $15,000 and $25,000 for our children’s programs, and it also enables us to make repairs to our building,” said Keane, who is also former chairman of the Community House. “Many restaurants give out coupons and we hold raffles.”

Longtime Forest Hills Gardens resident Helen Fernandez attended past events with her father Oscar, husband Gerard Murphy, and two friends.

“Getting to know the owners at the event is a nice, personal touch,” said Fernandez. “This event shows how Forest Hills has experienced a major amount of growth and opportunity, so you don’t have to travel into Manhattan.”

First-time attendee Anne Shisler-Hughes of Kew Gardens serves as Sales, Marketing & Events Coordinator for edible Queens.

“Forest Hills has a rich tradition of restaurants, markets, and wonderful culinary resources, and it’s great seeing them together in one place for a good cause,” she said. “We are happy to be a part of it.”

Portofino Ristorante has served Forest Hills for 39 years. In addition to some popular menu items, owner Carmine Polito distributed a promotion where patrons can enjoy a free house wine or appetizer with the purchase of two entrees.

“I love what I do,” Polito said. “My parents were in the business, but I am the first generation to open in Forest Hills.”

In just over a year, Forest Hills has seen the opening of Jack & Nellie’s, followed by the Forest Hills Station House, Banter and The Flying Pig. All became instant attractions.

Forest Hills Station House owner Steve Elkins said the key to a restaurant’s survival is its rapport with the community, and expressed gratitude to his customers for a successful seven-month run.

“I look forward to seeing new faces at my restaurant,” he said.

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