Even upon first walking into the inviting, rustic-chic atmosphere of Testaccio Ristorante, located at 47-30 Vernon Blvd. in Long Island City, the icy Queens landscape melts into memory. Having a feeling of grandeur some may have felt was reserved for Manhattan, Testaccio holds true to a steady undercurrent of tradition — and, diners don’t even need to cross a bridge or a border.
Brown butter-tinged leather benches line the space and a giant wine case, any oenophile’s cave of wonders, dominates the rear dining space, while oversized clay pots — imported from Italy, of course — adorn the spaces between tables. Testaccio, which opened four years ago, conjures a sumptuous experience mirroring a romantic evening in Rome.
The Antipasto Testaccio almost spills with imported meats, cheeses and other classic antipasti such as mozzarella, rose-like bundles of prosciutto and olives. The bruschetta uses tomatoes so fresh and vibrant that the first bite may inspire diners to double-check there’s still snow on the ground outside.
The two crown jewels of the antipasto plate are the arancini, cheese-stuffed rice balls coated with breadcrumbs and fried, and fried artichoke, stem and leaves still on. The arancini were a full immersion into comfort food, with a sigh-inducing cheese flavor that permeated the warm pillow of rice. The artichoke sliver, fried and bursting with rich olive oil flavor, is surprisingly meaty in texture, similar to a portobello mushroom.
Pasta lovers must choose between 16 dishes on the dinner menu alone. A crowd-pleaser is Spaghetti alla Carbonara, a tidy heap of al dente pasta plunged elegantly into a rich egg yolk sauce, with jewel-like cubes of pancetta.
For the main course, meat-lovers might opt for the Costolette d’Abbacchio Scottadito, grilled organic lamb chops in a brandy sauce alongside garlic-sauteed chicory and cradled against a comforting cushion of soft polenta. The chops, frenched to allow diners to almost hold the ribs like moist meat lollipops, have an exemplary char and feel as if they were plucked from a fiery pit in the Roman countryside.
Fish lovers should opt for the Salmone alla Senape, a pan-roasted salmon suffused with creamy Cremona mustard flavor. The fish is tender and flaky.
Testaccio’s main course menu has an impressive range, presenting dishes such as braised tripe with tomatoes and Roman mint and espresso-rubbed skirt steak.
Stick around for classic desserts like tiramisu, spumoni, ricotta pie or bread pudding — savored alongside Frangelico or limoncello, of course.
For reservations, call (718) 937-2900.