A Whitestone Classic
The Clinton Restaurant
9-17 Clintonville St., Whitestone
Hours: Sun & Mon noon to 10 pm; Tue-Thu noon to 11 pm; Fri & Sat noon to midnight
Credit Cards: All Major
For three generations, the Babich family has been preparing delicious, homemade dishes on the corner of 10th Avenue and Clintonville Street. Since 1939, The Clinton Restaurant has been using fresh ingredients to create some of their traditional favorites as well as unique treats. We had a chance to stop in on a recent Friday night, and were not disappointed.
As we perused our menus, our friendly server rattled off some of the specials of the night and co-owner Bobby Babich dropped in to say hello. After a quick chat he worked his way around the well-lit space replete with checkered tablecloths, greeting regulars and newcomers alike.
Clearly, there is a family atmosphere at The Clinton. People stop in for a drink or just to say hello while others fill the back room for a birthday celebration. Nobody feels left out, and nobody goes hungry.
We started our night with a few appetizers to share. The Caesar salad was a classic done well, light on the dressing, heavier on the Parmesan, with a nice lemon tang that gets lost or overwhelmed in some restaurants. Of the three soups we tried, the Lobster Bisque was the clear winner, with its rich sherry zing and velvety smooth texture. The Pasta Fagioli was rich in beans, pasta and chicken bits, and the Minestrone tasted of fresh vegetables and herbs.
The highlight, though, was the Gnocchi in Veal Sauce, a recipe handed down from Babich’s grandmother. The ragout is infused with such a rich, meaty veal flavor – and chunks – that the gnocchi serve their perfect purpose, to be the medium for the mouth-watering sauce.
Moving on to our main dishes, we went classic nearly all the way. Eggplant Parmesan is served in a metal baking dish – so soft, so tender – and smothered with a house-made marinara and a slab of mozzarella.
The Chicken Florentine, pieces of chicken breast served atop a bed of spinach with mushrooms and that ubiquitous mozzarella, with a thick-cut piece of prosciutto thrown in for good measure, was salty, rich and earthy.
And the steak – yup, an inch-thick, no-frills New York Strip – was served straight off a fire grill, with that crisp char on the outside so perfectly paired with the reddish pink interior.
Filled, we managed to save room for dessert, which included a lemon sorbet (in the lemon, of course), perfectly layered tiramisu and a carrot cake that is a cream cheese-lover’s dream.
Whitestone is known for its historic Italian cuisine. The Clinton is clearly the granddaddy of them all. “The community has helped us out a lot,” said co-owner Ray Babich. “We’re preparing the food the way my father and grandfather did. Everything is fresh; everything is homemade.”
Go hungry; bring a friend. Split a couple of dishes. Enjoy!
- Brian M. Rafferty