288 Lancaster Avenue
Rocco Desiderio, who has owned dining establishments in New
York City and New Jersey, is a seasoned restaurateur. And his experience is
quite evident. At his latest culinary venture - Ristorante Verona,
located in the Shops of Knob Hill in Frazer - the redoubtable and spiffily
attired Mr. Desiderio is always on hand to make certain that your evening (or
afternoon) at table is a pleasant one.
The interior of his establishment, which is divided into
three intimate dining alcoves, is dressed up in eye-catching brushed brunt
orange walls. There's a touch of casual elegance here, sophisticated but not at
And the cuisine, courtesy of Chef Fabrizio Spina, fits right
in, as it exudes a refined rusticity that succeeds in satisfying the soul as
well as placating the palate. Homey salads, for example, make splendid opening
moves. The Caesar ($5.95) beguiles with pristinely fresh torn leaves of
romaine, crunchy, oven-baked croutons, Parmesan cheese, and an invigorating
homemade dressing with just enough zip to tantalize your delicate taste buds.
The roasted eggplant salad ($8.95) is another excellent starter. Discs of fresh
mozzarella are pillowed on meaty tomato slices and interspersed with perfectly
grilled eggplant segments. A sprinkling of olive oil and dash of Italian herbs
add appropriate finishing touches.
Other appetizers include exceedingly tender calamari
fritti served up with a spicy marinara sauce ($7.95) and a very nice
miniature crab cake ($9.95). There is more mashed potato filler here than jumbo
crabmeat, but the presentation is highly recommended nonetheless; and the rich
lobster brandy sauce adds a deliciously decadent consummating note.
My favorite among the starters, though, is one of the daily
specials: broccoli rabe with sweet Italian sausage ($9.95). The epicenter of
greenery is just the right texture, firm but not chewy, and the color is a
vibrant green. It is flanked by the sausage, savory and succulent, split
Among the pasta dishes, I am particularly fond of the
orecchiette - "little ears" - ($12.95). The pasta is cooked to a perfect al
dente, garnished with fresh broccoli florets and tender chunks of sautéed
chicken breast, and finished with a touch of garlic and olive oil. The homemade
potato gnocchi with a rich tomato sauce ($12.95) is also quite good, albeit a
tad on the doughy side. For more rustic renditions, be sure to try the penne
Bolognese ($12.95) or the spaghetti con polpette ($12.95), fresh pasta
enhanced with a generous apportionment of meatballs.
Regular highly recommended entrées include a tender, juicy
veal chop crowned with a plethora of sautéed mushrooms and onions (Market
Price) and cut-like-butter textured 8-ounce filet basking in a luscious red
wine demi-glace reduction ($26.95); although the latter was companioned
by vegetables that tasted as if they'd spent considerable time skinny-dipping
in the Great Salt lake.
Piscatorial possibilities, usually offered as nightly specials,
are also worthy of consideration. The two sampled, however, -- flounder and
tilapia - were recited without tariffs and, despite the impeccable good health
and quality of presentation, seemed a bit pricey at $26.95. The former, cooked
up francese - white wine sauce tinctured with lemon - was a bit on the viscous
side; but the latter, prepared livornese - "leghorn-style" with white wine,
olive oil, capers, chopped garlic, tomatoes, and parsley - was right on the
Desserts ($5.95) offer a nice finishing touch to your
evening at table. The Italian rum cake is quite good, ditto the tiramisù and
amaretto cake; and a potent jolt of espresso ($2.50) makes a most suitable
If you can't make dinner, be sure to stop by for lunch, which
is available Monday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
The Artful Diner
Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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