Sapori d’Ischia: A Hidden New York Gem?
I was provided with the opportunity to dine at this restaurant at no cost. I do not accept monetary compensation for writing about my experiences. All opinions expressed are my own.
55-15 37th Avenue
Woodside, NY 11377
(718) 446-1500 | Map
"Are these directions right? Is there really a restaurant this way?" Those questions repeated in my head as I attempted to navigate my way from the subway station to Sapori d'Ischia, the Italian restaurant in Woodside billed as a "hidden New York gem" that I was invited to review. I got so turned around that I stopped to ask for directions at a car dealership... and then I finally called the restaurant to confirm that I really was supposed to walk through the empty industrial park.
Obviously, I found the restaurant. And, my friend Becca waiting there for me upon my arrival. (Whew!)
After we were led back to our table in the dimly lit dining area, a new feeling of anxiety washed over me. The place was empty except for one large group of men, chatting and laughing over freely flowing wine. I felt as if we walked directly into a scene of The Godfather, and Becca and I did not fit in. But our server encouraged us to sit and order some wine (Sapori d'Ischia does offer wine by the glass. You just have to ask.) and then proceeded to bubble over the offerings on the menu. We left all of the "ordering" to him.
To start, Becca and I split two specialties: the Tiella di Polpetti alla Griglia (Charred Baby Octopus, Borlotti Beans, Radicchio, and Caper Berries served in a Candle-lit Terra Cotta Crock) and the Budino di Carciofi (Brick-Oven Baked Puree with Artichoke with Pancetta and Fire-Roasted Peppers). While the octopus dish was elegantly presented in the candle-lit crock that sat on a wooden board, the octopus was ultimately overcooked. It was rubbery and chewy, and we could only manage a few bites before giving up. The artichoke puree was prepared with a lot of care, as the flavor components married well together. Thankfully, we had some bread left in the complimentary bread basket to eat with the puree.
Next, we were treated to tastings of two of Sapori d'Ischia's pasta dishes: the Fettucini al' Antonio and the Ravioli del Giorno. Looking back at all of the food we tried, the pasta dishes were the best of the bunch. The Fettucini al' Antonio was prepared table-side in a bowl of Parmigiano Reggiano and was finished with prosciutto di Parma and white truffle essence. Watching our server toss the pasta in the huge scooped-out rind of cheese was like having front-row seats at dinner theater. Great entertainment! And our Ravioli del Giorno featured a filling of cremini mushrooms and a sage brown butter sauce. Delicioso! Becca and I would have been perfectly happy to continue eating both pasta dishes for the rest of the evening. But we had to move on to our next course.
After a truly satisfying pasta course, the main course was a major let-down for me. I needed help deciding which dish to try and went along with our server's recommendation of the Rana Pescatrice "Castello Aragonese"(Pinot Grigio-Glazed Monkfish with Truffled Cannellini Stufata and Sauteed Escarole). The monkfish was prepared with a polenta crust that never achieved a crispy texture. It was completely overwhelmed by the heavy use of truffle oil. The whole dish was overwhelmed by truffle oil and I could only eat one bite. Utterly disappointing. Thankfully, Becca generously shared her order of Costola Corta (Brick-Oven Braised Short Ribs of Beef, Olive Oil Whipped Potatoes, and Balsamic Red Onions served with Natural Braising Juices and Barbaforte Oil). The short ribs were tender and fell apart with the slightest touch of the fork, and the mashed potatoes were flavored nicely by the olive oil. Too bad the aroma of truffle oil lingered and almost nearly killed what was left of my appetite.
I think our server picked up on my disapproval of the monkfish because, after our plates were cleared from the table, he immediately came back out with a plate of their Pizza Nocciola (Chocolate Hazelnut Pizza and Fresh Raspberry Sauce). I was only planning on finishing my meal with a cappuccino, so the dessert was a nice surprise. The pizza crust consisted of two very thin slices of bread with a layer of smooth Nutella between them and finished with a dusting of powdered sugar and a drizzling of raspberry sauce and chocolate sauce. The dessert pizza was so rich that Becca and I could only handle one piece each. But we had the other two pieces wrapped up for us to take home!
There were definite ups and downs to our meal. If I had to choose again, I'd ask to try as many of the pasta dishes as possible, and I would have steered away from the dishes featuring seafood or fish. The suggestion to try the monkfish was made with good intentions, but I'm sure it'll be a while before I'll be able to eat anything with truffle oil again.
And now, courtesy of Sapori d'Ischia, here's their recipe for the Ravioli del Giorno that Becca and I were fortunate enough to enjoy!
Ravioli with Cremini Mushrooms and Brown Butter Sage Sauce from Sapori d'Ischia - Serves 4
2 pounds fresh pasta sheets
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned
4 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces unsalted butter
6 sage leaves
Slice and dice the mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms in olive oil with the garlic. Once the mushrooms have cooked, stir in the goat cheese. Combine until the mixture has the consistency of pâté.
Take two sheets of the fresh pasta and boil to cook (according to package instructions). Once cooked, remove pasta from the water and lay on a flat surface. With a 3-inch circle cutter, cut circles from the sheet, making sure to cut as many as possible. Repeat with the other sheet.
When you are finished, take one circle of pasta and place a tablespoon of the mushroom-and-goat-cheese mixture in the center. Place another circle of pasta on top of the first circle. With a fork, seal the two sheets closed. Continue until all of the mixture is gone.
To make the sauce, put the butter and sage leaves in a frying pan and cook until the butter has browned. Pour the sauce over the ravioli and serve.
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