Friday, September 18, 2009

Mmm...Nino puts Il Post on the front burner

By Marshall Slater

Il Posto Ristorante Italiano (7409 Avenue U, 718-241-4317) is a quiet, unassuming place, smack in the middle of a completely residential area. You certainly wouldn’t pass the place by happenstance unless you had a very specific reason to be in the area. But just because this establishment is off the beaten track does not mean that the dining room is quiet. Indeed, nothing could be further from the truth. People seek Il Posto out. Sure, it is very popular among neighborhood diners, but just as many come from beyond its Bergen Beach boundaries and its popularity will only increase exponentially when people realize who is now in the kitchen.

Nino’s Restaurant on Coney Island Avenue had been a landmark for decades, drawing capacity crowds to its dining room, mainly due to master chef and owner Nino. It was a dismal day when, several years ago, Nino closed up shop and the long familiar façade vanished from the Kings Highway area. But now Nino is back in his chef’s hat, as the master of Il Posto’s kitchen. And word is spreading so you better get there soon, before you’re beaten to the seats by his legion of fans. Incidentally, Nino’s brother Sal has also taken up residence at Il Posto; you’ll find him as a waiter in the dining room.

The Il Posto menu has always been popular, but it is now immeasurably enhanced thanks both to Nino’s five star kitchen skills and the fact that he has brought many of his favorite dishes to his new home.

Your hostess and host, Agnes and Tony Evangelista, are still very much the driving force in the dining room, guiding the various incarnations of Italian restaurants at this address for more than 13 years. Three years ago they reopened at Il Posto and it has been a success story ever since. With the addition of Nino, you may be assured that this will now be a very long running show.

The place is a real neighborhood hot spot and extremely welcoming; they are very family friendly, and celebrating your special times is a must here, but and when going out as a twosome, Il Posto is also the place to be.

Nino’s Sunday Sauce is a venerable dish (served only on Sundays as the name implies). It is a platter not for the faint of heart — but just right for the hungry of stomach, consisting of homemade Bracciola, meatballs, Nino’s made-from-scratch sausages, spare ribs and even pig’s skin, all in a thick tomato-based sauce.

Every night of the week indulge in any of Nino’s outstanding homemade pastas, such as the spinach fettuccine, the cannelloni and the various kinds of ravioli. Nino’s crowd pleasing crabcakes are now on the bill of fare, as is his fresh lobster salad, prepared with apples and his fresh avocado and shrimp salad.Chicken and Veal Pappagalo, prepared with fresh asparagus in a white wine sauce, is a signature dish of Nino’s and is now available at Il Posto.

Seasonal specialties are also a staple: From bronzini to soft shell crabs, the change in the months brings wonderful new additions to the menu.Nino’s emphasis has always been on the freshest of ingredients and the most skillful preparation.

So settle back and munch on the complimentary bruschetta and enjoy the wonderful crusty bread served with herb butter while you check out the menu.

Nightly specials add to the lure. On this evening, the options included fresh grilled octopus, prepared with a light lemon vinaigrette seasoning. The tender tentacles were served on a bed of field greens. The stuffed mushrooms were marvelous, with chunks of shrimp, sweet scallops and crabmeat, served in a thick red sauce; the caps delightfully succulent and lightly seared.

There was also a creamy asparagus soup and risotto with pancetta and sausage.Entrée specials enticed with boneless duck stuffed with chestnuts, apples and raisons; halibut stuffed with a mélange of seafood; lobster fra diavolo or prepared oreganata style, and Bronzini, a flaky white fish that could be savored grilled or Livornese style. For the carnivore, there was a thick prime rib.

On the regular menu there is a Stuffed Artichoke starter: veggies crammed with delicious seasoning and plenty of chunks of fresh garlic in a lilting broth, served on a well soaked base of bread that is just the right conclusion to this dish. Each leaf is infused with the sultry broth and [is] just wonderful.Other beginning options range from the Mozzarella en Carrozza to the Mussels sautéed in a light tomato sauce and the hot and cold antipasto platters.

Of the pastas, the Rigatoni Filetto di Pomodoro is a favorite, studded with prosciutto, basil and onion in a thick and sweet red sauce. There’s also Spaghetti alla Arrabiata (spicy), Penne ala Vodka, and cheese ravioli prepared with butter and sage.As for the main event, the Pollo ala Mele is a real tour de force: The tender and large breast is blackened and sweetened with balsamic vinegar, stuffed with molten fresh mozzarella and sweet pieces of apple all in a Dijon mustard accent and served with escarole on the side. Other chicken dishes include the scarpariello and the Francese.

Continuing, Manzo al Barolo offers juicy medallions of beef with a thick Barolo sauce, veal is stuffed with spinach and fontina cheese as Uccelletti alla Toscana; the Saltimbocca offers the veal laden with fresh prosciutto and sage. The Veal Zingara has a kick and is made with plenty of fresh mushrooms. There’s also a grilled veal chop and sirloin steak, plus the Tagliata con Rucola, which is sliced steak marinated with rosemary and served with arugola.

Moving into the waters, the huge piece of salmon is prepared with a pink mustard sauce as Salmon Reale, with red peppercorn accents and capers. The fish itself is thick and succulent, and satisfies completely. Shrimp is done with garlic and herbs; there is Zuppa di Pesce, striped bass encrusted with rafano and tuna with balsamic vinegar, capers and olives.

Desserts are just as creative and indulgent: poached pear with Barolo wine and cinnamon; homemade tirami su, orange marinated in Grand Marnier and garnished with orange peel and miniature Italian cannoli, to name just a brief sampling.

Il Posto Ristorante Italiano7409 Avenue U, 718-241-4317. Hours: Open for lunch, Tuesday-Friday, 12-3 p.m., and for dinner, Tuesday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m., until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and Sunday, 1-9 p.m. Closed on Monday.Offered is a three course lunch special for $23 and a three course dinner special, Tuesday-Friday price fixed at $26.Most major credit cards are accepted.Private parties are accommodated; outside catering is a specialty. Take out is also available.There is ample street parking at all times and free valet parking Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m.Live entertainment is featured Friday evenings.


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