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Pasta Paradise

The old Italian neighborhoods might be close to slicing their last gabagool, but Queens’s vaunted red-sauce tradition endures, on menus both old-fashioned and new.

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Illustration by Christian Northeast  

Manducatis (Est. 1977)
Before M. Wells, before Dutch Kills, before even the hint of a Hunters Point luxury rental, there were Vincenzo and Ida Cerbone, he hosting, she cooking, in a nondescript corner location that’s since expanded twice. Shrimp alla Ida is a specialty of the house, but you’d do best just putting yourself in the chef’s practiced hands (or those of her son Anthony, who’ll likely be taking your order). 13-27 Jackson Ave., Long Island City; 718-729-4602.


Piccola Venezia (Est. 1973)
There’s a bit of the banquet hall in this neighborhood landmark, and although the harried waiter will assure you that the kitchen can make anything you want, any way you want it, stick to the dishes you don’t recognize. They’re likely from Istria, same as the folks in charge, and reflect an influence so northern it’s practically Austrian: the fortifying bean-and-cabbage soup called yota; bowtie-shaped fusi sauced with grappa and mushrooms; and the trademarked “Buco”lloni, jumbo tortelloni stuffed with osso buco. The smashed and fried potatoes “La Pook” have no Istrian derivation, though—they’re named for a regular customer, “the best dentist on Long Island.” 42-01 28th Ave., Astoria; 718-721-8470.


Sapori d’Ischia (Est. 2000)
Woodside’s answer to Eataly (except it was there first): an ­imported-foods warehouse by day, dimly lit restaurant by night, where each slice of thin-crusted pizza is served with not a little ceremony, with serving spoons, from a silver pedestal of sorts. There is fettucini “al’Antonio” tossed in a wheel of Parmigiano, braised rabbit in the Ischian style, and, invariably, owner Frank Galano and his son Anthony minding the store. 55-15 37th Ave., Woodside; 718-446-1500.


Testaccio (Est. 2009)
Here you’ll find what the owners call contemporary Roman cuisine cooked by a bespectacled, side-whiskered dude named Ivan Beacco. He puts mint in his braised tripe, dabs his fried artichokes with tapenade, and wraps pancetta around seared yellowfin and serves it with Lambrusco sauce. His best stuff, though, is straight-up traditional: an in-season puntarelle salad, a world-class cacio e pepe, and a $24 all-you-can-eat whole-hog porchetta dinner on Thursday nights. 47-30 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City; 718-937-2900.


Vesta Trattoria & Wine Bar (Est. 2008)
A New Brooklyn Cuisine restaurant with an Astoria address, Vesta has local wine on tap, salad greens plucked from city rooftops, and a whole-wheat option for the pizza dough. Notably absent: tablecloths, captains, and any form of veal—piccata, Parmesan, or otherwise. Now, is that Italian?


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