There was a time when Tuscany was the darling of regional-Italian dining in New York, but Rome has stolen the spotlight with the arrival of multiple new restaurants—Maialino, Sora Lella, Emporio—specializing in that city’s cuisine. And now there’s Testaccio, a brightly lit Queens spot named for a Roman neighborhood famous for its butchers and ancient pottery, which helps explain all the urns and books on the history of the area’s slaughterhouses. Chef Ivan Beacco’s menu reads like a best-of list of Rome’s classics. Bite-size suppl (rice balls) in three flavors—corn and pecorino, tomato and mozzarella, and black truffle and artichoke—had crisp, golden shells and creamy rice centers. Truffle also flavored a chestnut-flan appetizer (a special, and one of few nontraditional dishes), but it—along with a salty cheese sauce—overpowered the custard’s earthiness. A bowl of spaghetti alla carbonara got some things right—the egg-based sauce perfectly glazed the noodles—but the pasta was plucked from the water on the far side of al dente. Entres were an improvement. A whole Cornish hen with mixed vegetables, roasted in a wood-burning oven, was a straightforward dish with a pleasing $16 price tag. Coda alla vaccinara—oxtails braised in red wine—was the highlight. Gelatinous meat slid from the bone with barely the touch of a fork, while a pile of cipollini onions and mushrooms were bathed in the richly concentrated sauce. And our favorite dessert was a silken ricotta pie topped with amarena cherries. While the kitchen’s inconsistencies keep it from being a destination, with so many Roman restaurants colonizing Manhattan, it’s good to know there’s an option across the river.
47-30 Vernon Blvd
|Cross street:||between 47th Rd and 48th Ave|
|Opening hours:||Mon–Thi noon–11pm, Fri–Sun noon–midnight|
|Transport:||Subway: 7 to Vernon Blvd–Jackson Ave|
|Price:||Average main course: $20. AmEx, DC, Disc, MC, V|
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