Real Italian In Corona
Il Triangolo Ristorante
96-01 Corona Ave., Corona
Hours: 11:30 am to 10 pm Tue-Thur & Sun; 11:30 am to 11 pm Fri & Sat
Credit Cards: All Major
Delivery: Yes (takeout)
Parking: On Site
There are many benefits to having an Italian buddy – loyalty, kinship, a deeper understanding of “The Godfather.” But arguably the most underrated is grandma’s cooking. Those of us blessed with a Tony, Vinny or Mikey in our lives know the delight in being invited to Nonna’s Sunday feasts, where every uncle, aunt, cousin and family pet gathers to get a big helping of the good stuff from the Old Country, as Padre Pio inevitably watches on from the mantle.
It is as much a rite of passage as any omerta oath, and makes you realize the slew of “Italian” ristorantes spread around our borough are faking it all the way. But the search for Nonna’s best is what keeps us trying new places.
Well look no further, for rising above all the cookie-cutter Italian joints comes Mario Gigliotti’s Il Triangolo Ristorante. In an era when hotshot young chefs in Manhattan experiment fusing Italian with Far East cuisine, Gigliotti keeps it old school. Il Triangolo presents a triple threat – fresh, homemade and delicious.
The ambiance perfectly mimics the best trattorias in the boot-shaped homeland. Dark woods and modern chic give the setting an edge over the old-school, dusty chandelier places, where the only things older-looking than the furniture are the waiters.
Mario, like any true Italian, takes family seriously – so much so he employs his own. You can find daughter Josephina at the bar, son Angelo waiting tables and wife Pierina baking Il Triangolo’s delicious bread and desserts. And the feeling of family permeates every thing the restaurant does – including the scope of meals.
My guest and I began our meal with some wonderful sautéed eggplant with marinara sauce, fresh-baked bread with a black olive and anchovy spread, prosciutto and figs. The antipasti – hot, cold, sweet, tangy, sour – prepped the palate for the onslaught to come. First came a zucchini flower stuffed with spinach and goat cheese – a delicacy picked from Gigliotti’s own garden. The subtle mix of unique flavors gave away why it’s considered a treat.
Next came the business of pasta – ey, this is Italian! Homemade gnocchi with pesto, a delicious take on an Italian staple, made with fresh basil. Also Fettucini Alla Triangolo – an absurdly delicious combination of parmesan cheese, peas, onions, and prosciutto in a gorgonzola cream sauce.
For our main course, Angelo suggested his favorite – Vitello Mario’s Style – veal with pancetta, peas and fresh tomatoes. The meat was perfectly cut and swimming in a sauce bordering on the divine. The pancetta lent flavor with gusto while the peas rounded out a playful texture. It was the most down-to-earth yet delicious veal I’ve had in a long time. Thanks, Angelo.
Along the way, Mario kept our glasses full of his homemade wine, made from cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes with some sweet white grapes. Sweet but still bringing some late heat, the drink is dangerous. After a quick dance on the palate, the wine slides down with incredible ease. I’d lie if I said I left able to easily pass a sobriety test. Good thing I wasn’t driving.
For dessert, I had tiramisu while my guest enjoyed some cheesecake with fruit atop. The desserts, unlike their Americanized counterparts, provided a fantastic cap with flavorful but not overpowering sweetness. Alas, Mario put me over the top with a glass of his homemade Limoncello, a dangerously delicious aperitif.
As the meals kept coming, one couldn’t help but feel like guests in the Gigliotti household. Mario, ever the gracious host, chatted up patrons, laughed, shook hands. With AM-radio quality scratchy Italian music playing in the background, I peered down by the bar to see him gyrating, twisting his torso and waving his hands, enjoying a robust tarantella as much as any boy in Napoli.
Il Triangolo follows the Italian tradition of making great food feel, taste and seem simple. It’s a trick – these meals border on religious, a communal rite passed down for generations. It’s almost too generous for anyone to share this food outside their home, for strangers no less. But Italy, in spirit, has been nothing if not generous to the world.
Sit. Mangia! Every Nonna would be proud.
— Joseph Orovic