1:00 PM

110-80 Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 520-1123

I was not looking forward to dinner. "Come on," said Bro. "It's time. Suck it up." See, we had plans to finally sup at The Family Restaurant. The Family Restaurant on Queens Boulevard, for those who don't know, is one of a half dozen or so large Italian restaurants that pepper the dining corridors of Forest Hills. Thus far, my large Forest Hills Italian restaurant experiences have been less than stellar. Pasta Del Giorno. Portofino. They tend to charge far more than any other restaurant would dare to for what you get, and the food has been, and I'm being diplomatic here, a joke. So being 0 for 2, Bro and I sauntered off for Round 3. Will The Family Restaurant resurrect my opinions of these red sauce havens? On our walk, given that the first page of reviews on CitySearch included phrases like "Never ever eat there!!!!!", "pasta out of a box would be better than this!" and "even if I paid $5, I'd feel disappointed." I was predicting that this would be yet another loss.

Walking into TFR is a somewhat interesting affair. For starters, the first person to meet us scowled as though we pushed his kid down to get in. Everyone after this first guy though was very nice. In fact, our Wal Mart greeter aside, if TFR served service instead of food, they'd get high marks. The interior, with its white tablecloths and white cloth napkins, high-backed chairs, bow-tied waiters and lots of reds and browns is extremely old-school. This restaurant exudes the feeling that it's been around for a long time and hasn't changed an iota.

But let's not beat around the bush. Eating in TFR is like having dinner in a retirement home. Save one table of a family with kids running around clanging their forks on their glasses, for most of the meal Bro and I were the youngest people here by thirty years. You can't see them in the pic, but about eight dark still life paintings line the opposite wall, which couldn't help but remind me of Ms. Havisham's inevitable impending doom. If only there was a wedding cake up there...

Still, taste in decorations (or the lack thereof) have nothing to do with the food. Bro ordered the Prosciutto and Melon, which was literally that. Slices of melon that they draped prosciutto on top of like a blanket. If there was an award out there for laziness in presentation, then this would win. Am I being unfair saying that they used a cheap cut of prosciutto? And yet, this might have been the best tasting dish of the night. In all honesty it wasn't that bad. But, come on. They could have at least tried to make the plates look good. Barnes & Noble even sells books on creating garnishes. I opted for the Stuffed Mushrooms appetizer. Not terrible, to be fair, but bland in every sense of the word. The stuffing was a mush of powdered Parmesan cheese and 4C breadcrumbs. The sauce was generic. At least the mushrooms were larger than the tiny insults that I was served Portofino. But again, no presentation. They didn't even wipe the drops from the rim of the plate. (Seriously, do I expect too much? Let me know.)

Both of our entrees came with a choice of salad or pasta on the side, and Bro and I both chose the salad. The salad arrived before the appetizers did and was an interesting mix of lettuce, carrots, one sprig of steamed (or old) cauliflower, one tomato wedge, one black olive, one green olive, a piece of red bell pepper and a jalapeno. This was a diner salad from 1975. I ended up eating the jalapeno and the tomato and then focused on buttering my roll with the gold foil butter pack those same diners give you with your pancakes. But back to dinner. Bro ordered the Filet of Sole Francaise ($17). It was just awful. Francaise sauce is a lemon-butter sauce. There are variations on it, of course, but this one really liked its lemon. It was beyond sour. And the fish was so fishy I found it difficult to take it down. Bro didn't mind it as much as me, which is surprising because he won't eat food that fell on the floor and I will. I ordered the Chicken Cacciatore ($18). It's not small. It's half of a chicken. That's way too big for any normal person and I'm not the type to be wooed by quantity over quality. I'd rather have a fraction of the food, made perfectly, for the price. Alas, this dish was far from perfect. It was greasy and the tomato sauce was cheap. They baked the chicken, skin and all under a large helping of tomato sauce. When the fat melted away it did so right into the sauce*. So while the chicken was so tender I could have cut it with a spoon, it was so greasy that the chicken would have have slid right off from said spoon. If TFR wanted to keep the skin so badly, then what they should have done was blast the chicken (on a rack for drainage) in the oven at 500 degrees for ten minutes to melt the fat off, discard that fat and THEN bake it. This way it wouldn't be sitting in grease. It would also help if they used a better sauce (the same sauce, by the way, as covered the stuffed mushrooms).

* If you look at the pic, you can even see the color shift where the grease becomes tomato sauce.

For dessert, Bro ordered the Home Made Cheesecake, which instead of being smooth like cream cheese, was crumbly like a sand castle. It tasted okay, but the texture was terrible. My dessert was the Home Made Canoli. This wasn't bad, actually, except that the shell was very brittle, like a fortune cookie that never gave me my lucky numbers. Plus, and I'm no accountant, should our two $6.50 desserts and my $2 coffee have totaled $16 and change?

0 for 3.

While The Family Restaurant isn't Balthazar expensive, it's not cheap and it's grossly overpriced. Our meal of two appetizers, two entrees, two glasses of house white, two desserts, one coffee, tax and tip was $103 and change. My advice is to spend your Social Security money HERE or HERE instead.

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