With all the Covid restrictions placed on the food industry in New York City, many restaurants were forced to close. Some never recovered and their doors will not open again. Gratefully earlier this month Pastavino beat all odds and reopened in full force. This upscale Italian restaurant is located on the north shore of Staten Island, New York at the Navy Pier. When it was time to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday, the choice was simple. And off to Pastavino we went.
Upon entering, you are greeted by a beautiful modern bar with bottles on display in a manner that it adds to the exquisite décor. The dining room compliments the look of the bar with exposed bright silver duct work along the ceiling, several planters, beautiful light fixtures and full length windows. Encompassing the back wall, behind glass is their wine collection beautifully displayed. If you enjoy dining outside, they offer a charming garden area as an option. Their outdoor garden offers amazing views of the water and the skyline of Manhattan. Pastavino overall has a welcoming light and airy feel.
Upon being seated we were greeted by our server Chris who took our drink orders. In addition to offering over one hundred and twenty wines, they have a full bar and a wonderful selection of house cocktails. One was the “Cucumber Spritz” which was made with vodka, lemon, anise, sparkling water and long thinly sliced cucumber. This cocktail was light and refreshing. Due to the ingredients it helps cleanse the pallet. They also offer three versions of the classic Italian cocktail “Negroni”. A Negroni is a gin based cocktail which also serves as an apéritif. For those not in the know, an apéritif is a usually a dry cocktail used to awaken ones appetite. “The Beast” enjoys a well made “Negroni”. The first one ordered was their “Bianco Negroni” which was made with Hendrick’s gin, Cocchi Americano, Lillet and lemon, garnished with a lemon peel. It was vastly different then a typical Negroni yet it was very refreshing and satisfying. If you enjoy a smoother cocktail and enjoy gin, I would recommend trying it. Next it was necessary to order the “Vecchio Negroni”. This is similar to a classic Negroni but uses ninety day barrel aged Hendrick’s gin, Carpano Antica Vermouth and Campari, garnished with an orange peel. It was perfectly made and this would be the cocktail of choice for the remainder of dinner.
Our server Chris went over the menu with us. He inquired what our likes were and made informative recommendations. Many times a server will merely recite the ingredients in a dish and offer no additional information. However Chris not only knew how every item was prepared but was able to describe each dish in a manner that individualized them in a way that made you want to keep listening. His expertise and pleasant demeanor added to our experience. His passion behind the menu was second to none. On our next visit, I will definitely be requesting Chris to be our server.
Four appetizers and four entrees were ordered. The descriptions are in the pictures below. However, I would like to review some areas that pleased “The Beast”.
Many places make Arancini round as if it’s your run of the mill rice ball. Arancini originated in Sicily when it was under Arab rule in the tenth century. It is a traditional dish during the feast of Saint Lucia to commemorate the introduction of grain to the region. You may be surprised to hear that true Arancini is not round. Yet is is the shape of a ball. A football that is. They are small in size and come to a point on each end. Pastavino serves them exactly this way. Yes it is more complex making them in the traditional shape and I applaud the chef for going the extra mile to do so.
The Bronzini was served with each piece beautifully stacked on top of one another with the skin being perfectly crisp. It was served with swiss chard and a saffron sugo. Sugo is commonly a basic and simple Italian sauce. However, to bring out the flavors of the fish, they served the sugo as a saffron sauce. This added complexity and another level of flavor to the dish making it a star of the evening. The sugo was served beneath the fish so it would not compromise the crispiness of the skin.
The other stand out was the Maiale, This is a center cut Berkshire pork chop, The bone was frenched which looked beautiful in the presentation. The chop was extremely tender and melted in your mouth with each bite. With the sauce, the softness of the shaved asparagus and pepperonata, the crispy prosciutto added a wonderful salty crunch to this amazingly well balanced dish.
For desert we ordered “Torta di Formaggi” which was a creamy Italian cheesecake with mascarpone cheese and a crisp almond wafer. To accompany the cheesecake Grappa was ordered. Their menu offers a choice of thirteen different grappa’s that range in price. I went with the Nardini Riserva which a wonderful contrast to the sweetness of the cheesecake and paired perfectly together.
There is an abundant of Italian restaurants around, however many do not make their pastas in house. Pastavino differs from the others. All their pastas are fresh and homemade. One sounding more appetizing then the next.
Pastavino offers a wonderful atmosphere with artistically plated dishes and amazing service. I was extremely pleased with the dishes presented by Chef Josh Laurano, and a special shout out to the manager John Gorga who checked in on us regularly and took time out of his busy night to speak with “The Beast”.
If you haven’t been to Pastavino, get there. If you have been there, go back. If you are looking for a different option, try some of their other restaurants. I know “The Beast” and I surely will. Some of their other restaurants are listed below.
- Birravino – 183 Riverside Ave, Red Bank, NJ 07701 (I’ve been here and worth going back.)
- Surf – 132 E River Rd, Rumson, NJ 07760
- Undici 11 – 11 West River Road, Rumson, NJ 07760
- Navy Pier Prime & Taproom – 37 Navy Pier Ct. Staten Island, NY 10304 (Right across from Pastavino. Opening soon.)