1. Trattoria L'Incontro - Modern Italian Food with Old-World Charm
Chef Rocco Sacramone is all about the daily specials, and you'll likely hear more than 20 in one sitting. The best ones I've had include the green apple and mascarpone ravioli ($18) and the braised short ribs with gnocchi ($24). A great communal appetizer is the antipasto platter, delle valli, with enough cured meats, cheeses, fragrant olives, and roasted red peppers, to easily make four people smile ($10).
- Trattoria L'Incontro, 21-76 31st St, Astoria, NY, 718-721-3532
2. Bistro 33 - A French-Japanese Marriage Made in Heaven
Bistro 33 is run by chefs trained at the French Culinary Institute and it shows. I have yet to find a dish on the menu that I dislike. Creamy corn soup with crispy prosciutto ($7); lamb with garlic potato au gratin ($25)...these are a few of my favorite things. Chef Gary Anza prides himself on inventive sushi: try the island roll with mango and avocado ($6) or the red spider roll with soft shell crab ($9).
- Bistro 33, 19-33 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria, NY, 718-721-1933
3. Christos Steakhouse - A Greek Steakhouse with Class
What makes Christos a Greek steakhouse is a menu peppered with Greek classics. Saganaki (fried Valhotyri cheese $10) is next to Kobe steak tartar ($12). The seafood is wonderfully fresh and I recommend the baked clams (casino and oreganato $14). The steak range in cuts, from a 10-ounce filet mignon ($28) to a 63-ounce porterhouse for three ($96). For a luscious dessert, try the silky crème brulee with a dark chocolate bottom ($8).
- Christos Steakhouse, 41-08 23rd Ave, Astoria, NY, 718-777-8400
4. El Boqueron - Tapas That Reign
The tapas are, of course, the main event. The classic dish of gambas al ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce) makes the nose and the tongue tingle ($9) and the chicken croquettes are a crispy, hearty delight ($6). For something unexpected, try the pimientos del piquillo (Spanish roasted peppers with asparagus and sweet peppers sauce); they're light and perfect for soaking up with bread ($8). The sangria is the real thing, packed with plenty of fresh fruit($6).
- El Boqueron, 31-01 34th Ave, Astoria, NY, 718-956-0107
5. Malagueta - Gourmet Brazilian That Feels Like a Splurge
You're likely to experience sticker shock at Malagueta, but not the kind you're expecting. Despite the beautiful dishes, all entrees remain below $20. The most famous dish is the moqueca de camarao (shrimp stew, palm oil, veggies, coconut milk, and rice $13). And, yes, there is steak to enjoy, like a picanha (grilled sliced top sirloin $14). The wine is especially good; you'll get a full glass of a lovely white or red for as low as $5.50.
- Malagueta 25-35 36th Ave, Astoria, NY, 718-937-4821