A Happy Return
220-20 Hillside Ave. Queens Village
Hours: Tue-Fri 11 am to 10 pm; Sat noon to 10 pm; Sun 1-9 pm
Credit Cards: All Major
Parking: In Rear
After an afternoon shower brought cool to a warm summer Sunday, a friend and I decided to enjoy the pleasant weather with a stroll, and ended up settling in for a warming Italian dinner to prepare us for the coming week.
At the edge of Queens Village, mere blocks from Bellerose, Cara Mia has welcomed generations. My guest and I were welcomed into a dining room awash with soft light. Denise, who seemingly mans this ship of classic cuisine, navigated through the cozy dining room and seated us in a booth.
The menu boasts a meatball recipe that is a century old. There are also dishes teeming with mozzarella – and for those of you who know me understand I have never met a slither of cheese I could not adore.
First up was the bread basket, which is rife with garlic squares crafted in-house and a baguette from a Cara Mia vendor. The drink special, a passion fruit martini, made its way to the table courtesy of Denise. Though I had asked for the drink special, hearing of its passion fruit flavor I inwardly turned up my nose – I’m not a fan. With a serious measure of apprehension I took a sip… and then another. Simply put, it was refreshing. I nursed the drink throughout dinner as I wanted its decadence and flavor to last the evening.
Denise promised our first course would be the pazzo salad, which she said translates to “crazy salad.” Instead, a dish of cavatelli, broccoli rabe accompanied by hot sausage and oil was placed center stage. As carnivores that enjoy pasta, we were not at all disappointed that the salad took a backseat. She quickly explained the mix up, but left us to eat in peace.
As soon as the plate was empty it was carted away and on its heels was the pazzo salad. A bevy of mesclun was met with grilled vegetables, mozzarella and provolone, all topped with a warm balsamic vinaigrette.
Denise followed the salad with meatballs in homemade sauce. The meatballs had a very unique flavor, which is explained by the 100-year-old recipe. Next up was a combination platter of veal and chicken parmigiana. A deluge of mozzarella and sauce covered the meat. After devouring the meats we picked at the cheese that drifted to the edges of the plate, savoring its sweet saltiness.
The dinner was rounded out with lightly breaded shrimp scampi in white wine. Since my guest is allergic to shellfish, I dove into the scampi all by my lonesome. I never complained. I ate every morsel.
Though dinner was over, dessert was yet to be had. Since I was full from the scampi I let my guest choose desert – the Italian cheesecake prepared on premises. There was no fanfare to accompany the cheesecake; no cherries, chocolate sauce or anything that would distract from the pure flavors. A subtle lemon tang shot from the cake on first bite. It is unlike American cheesecake with its heaviness. After such a rich meal we needed something light to settle our stomachs. This was just the right finale to a wonderful evening.