by Adam Kuban, 10/22/2014
Le Gamin Astoria. Photo: Marley White
...And Every Other Cuisine
Astoria is rich in diversity, and that's reflected in its non-Greek dining scene. Along 36th Avenue, you'll find a concentration of Brazilian shops and restaurants, where Malagueta is a standout. The acarajé (a fritter of mashed black-eyed peas) is particularly good. Pão de Queijo serves an over-the-top Brazilian sandwich known as the "X Tudo"—a hamburger with ham, cheese, bacon, egg, calabresa sausage, corn, potato sticks, lettuce, tomato and mayo. Along Steinway Street, with its immigrants from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen and Algeria, you'll find a number of hookah cafés and some of the best Middle Eastern food in the City. Kabab Café is a destination among the City's knowing food-lovers, who praise it for the inventive food being cooked up by owner Ali El Sayed. Be forewarned: the food at Kabab Café is only half the experience. El Sayed is the other half, as much entertainer and intellectual as chef, and prone to conversation with his guests. You're better off letting him cook you what he wants rather than going by the menu. For a less involved meal, try Duzan Mediterranean Grill, a small Palestinian restaurant that makes some terrific hummus, falafel and chicken shawarma. The last couple years have seen ramen shops open in the Ditmars and 30th Avenue areas—Hinomaru and Okidoki, respectively—and an excellent small Thai spot called Pye Boat Noodle that specializes in the kind of dishes commonly sold from floating markets in Thailand.
Italian is another mainstay of Astoria dining. Toward the higher end, Trattoria L’Incontro is a must-visit—the pasta with lobster and the risotto dishes are excellent. Be sure to make a reservation, and though there's no dress code, Astorians tend to make L'Incontro a special night out, so dress accordingly. Nearby and more casual—but just as delicious—is Ornella, known for its chestnut-flour pasta and more adventurous, seasonal specials like sanguinaccio (blood pudding). For wood-oven Neapolitan-style pizza, Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana makes some of the best in the neighborhood. Head to Ukus for Bosnian fare like burek or cevapi sausages stuffed in pita. And if you're fond of French food, try Le Gamin Astoria, a cozy spot that serves traditional Gallic cuisine with organic, locally grown ingredients.