My boyfriend, Ogo (aka photographer) and I were lucky to have brunch this past Sunday, August 23rd with former New York Jets football player, Rob Carpenter and his elegant chic publicist, author, and radio talk show host, Alysia Stern at Ornella Trattoria Italiana located in Astoria, New York, just 20 minutes from Manhattan with M-60 bus or Taxi.
Our Restaurant host was Mr. Giuseppe Viterale, chef and owner, who migrated from Italy 25 years ago to create a legacy in America. He is married to his long time sweetheart and business partner, Ornella, who the restaurant is named after. They have three children whose names were posted on the restaurant walls and also happened to be our esteemed waiters.
The restaurant’s lights were dimmed which made the ambiance cozy and intimate. It was very welcoming, friendly and homely, partly due to the wooden tables which were built by Giuseppe, who was formerly an architect before entering the restaurant business with his family.
Ornella Trattoria has been open for the past six years and has garnered rave reviews from both critics and customers. It’s rated 4 stars on Yelp based on over 400 reviews. Some of the reviews from past diners, both positives and negatives were posted all over the bathroom walls. These reviews included Giuseppe’s responses to his critics, which reflected on his great sense of humor. If you need a great laugh when you dine there, go to the bathroom I guarantee your ribs will crack from laughter.
Reservations must be made for dinner on Saturdays or expect some wait time to be seated. Ornella Trattoria offers a variety of brunch, lunch and dinner for very reasonable prices. The highest price on the menu (handwritten by Giuseppe) is $25.
Born in Amityville, New York, Rob is a former wide receiver for the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets. Although, this was my first time meeting him, sitting and chatting with him felt like I’ve known and met him before. He was very friendly and chatted with us like we were all buddies, and even took his time to answer all our questions. One of the questions we asked was:
LME: Looking back at your career what was your best moment while playing for the New York Jets?
Carpenter: My best moment was my first year because I was home, very close to my family and was called the hometown kid by colleagues. Another best moment was when I scored a touchdown during my first home game against San Francisco 49ers.
We were all introduced to a taste of Italy with a seven course meal, which was a combination of specialized meat balls, smoked salmons with panini, pasta dishes and many others. Giuseppe’s passion for cooking and appreciation for history entertained us throughout our brunch; with his histrionic explanations of the historical significance behind each course meal we ate. He also shared with us how he makes his pastas and some of his best recipes like the amazing dessert drink he gave us for good digestion, which is a blended mixture of lemon juice, ice, white wine and vodka.
The dishes kept pouring out one after the other, all of which were great and mouth watering. We tried about four different kinds of pastas including customers’ favorite, Pasta di Castagna (not pictured), which is made with chestnut flour and dressed in pistachio sauce with truffle oil.
We also had customers’ favorite duck meatballs, which is “filled with cheese in a brandy-orange reduction sauce with raisins.” I highly recommend you try it. It is the best meatballs I’ve ever eaten.
Another favorite was the pressed panini with smoked salmon, mascarpone cheese, onions and caper. I must confess I ate mine without bread and it tasted really good.
In addition to pastas, meatballs and paninis, we also ate from the steak menu and started with steak au poivre. This was well cooked with the perfect mix of flavors.
And then tagliata – sliced shell steak. The steak was grilled to perfection and served over arugola and shaved parmesan cheese.
Ornella Trattoria has variety of wines to choose from that are reasonably priced. I recommend the Italian red wine, Montepuliciano d’Abruzzo to complement your meal. The wine gives a smooth but not dry taste in your mouth.
For dessert, I had tartufo – Italian ice cream truffles made with vanilla, chocolate and cherries.
Ogo had the chocolate moose cake.
Unfortunately, the brunch had to come to an end but not before I networked, dined and interacted with amazing people I hope to reconnect with again sometime in the future.
Ornella Trattoria is a fantastic restaurant with cool people and great service. I will definitely come back. If you haven’t been here yet, I highly recommend that you do.