>> Wednesday, June 16, 2010

107-02 Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375

The other night, I dined at Positano, the large Italian restaurant on Queens Boulevard by the post office, reaffirming my opinion that, so far, Il Poeta is the only Italian restaurant in Forest Hills worth anything. The. Only. One. Admittedly, the neighborhood is awash in Italian, and I still have 75 more to go, give or take. Quite literally, Positano was a laugh riot. Of course, other than laugh, what else is there to do when you’ve just spent good money on food you’d be embarrassed to serve at home?

I won't lie. I had absolutely no expectations that Positano would be a good meal. None. It bore every mark of mediocrity. It's a large Italian restaurant with a tacky Italian flag logo (if that's not like a buzzing neon sign blinking "eat somewhere else" then I don't know what what is.). It’s always mostly empty. It’s been changing ownership like underwear. Quite frankly, this new alleged partnership with the old Piu Bello people does not make me think that much change is in the air (at least they seem to have their own area in the greenhouse out back; the restaurant part remains unchanged). If anything, it seems like just another gimmick. And boy oh boy does Positano love trying out new gimmicks to drum up new business.

A couple of weeks ago, Positano put a postcard flyer under the windshield wiper of my car calling itself the “Positano Bar and Lounge” and featuring bikini girls advertising happy hour, ladies night, complimentary bottles of vodka, half priced drinks, and hookahs. “Ladies 18 to party, 21 to let loose.” Guys, 21 and up only. Shit, if I knew Positano was a club packed with stacked drunk hoochies, I'd have gone there a long time ago.

And how, you’re bound to ask, does the above ad square with the reality of that which Positano actually is? Hmmm...

Bro and I walked in only to find Positano virtually deserted. A musty odor of decrepitude permeating the restaurant that made it smell like a hospital waiting room. We nearly left. Sitting down by the window, I looked through the menu, but it was hard to pay attention. “My God, this muzak is blasting.” “Dude,” Bro replied. “That ain’t muzak” and he raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to the far wall. My eyes roamed past the two other occupied tables. There, in the dark bopped a guy in his late forties with a big microphone and bigger hair crooning karaoke machine versions of old pop songs, complete with a disco ball and fake backup singers. As Elvis's Can't Help Falling In Love transitioned to Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive I couldn’t imagine that this could possibly be attracting more people than it was repelling.

Positano’s appetizer menu is a joke. Mozzarella sticks, fried calamari, Buffalo wings. This is what they serve at bars and pizza places. We skipped them.

What’s so amazing is that they dare to charge as much as they do for their entrees. $17 to $26. Entrees that average $22 demand a certain level of quality that Positano simply doesn't even try to live up to. We decided what to get as we noshed on supermarket squishy Italian bread coated in butter from a gold-foil packet a la some diner. Bro ordered the Pollo Positano, thin cuts of chicken breast with potato, red pepper and mushrooms in a white wine sauce. It came with a side of sad-looking steamed broccoli. Before I say it was "bad", let me say that it wasn’t. But as Bro put it “this won’t win any awards.” If you’ve familiar with Chicken Tonight, the chicken-dinner-in-a-jar popular back when I was in school, then you’ve probably already eaten this meal hundred times from when mom got home late and wasn't interested in making a complicated meal. Bland, wine sauce-esque, cheap, seemingly canned vegetables, somewhat dry chicken. Not only won’t it win any awards, I don’t think the judges will even remember that it was in the contest.

My dinner? The Lamb Chops served with mashed sweet potatoes, mixed greens and a garlic crouton in a ruby port sauce. First, when asked how I wanted my chops cooked, I said medium. I got well-to-the-point-of-no-return. I did not get a “garlic crouton”, something I can only assume to be the equivalent of a piece of toasted garlic bread. The mixed greens were essentially a small side salad soaking in vinegar. The mashed sweet potatoes were straight out of a Gerber baby food jar. I shit you not, I could have eaten them with a straw. They drained through the cracks of my fork. The ruby port sauce was pretty good though.

This was $24 and I didn't even get my garlic crouton... :(

Surprise, surprise, we also skipped dessert. I mean really, what would've been the point?

Here’s the real kicker. This meal: two entrees and three beers, with tax and tip, cost us SEVENTY SEVEN DOLLARS! That's the equivalent of 25 gallons of gas.

If Positano wants to be anything more than a joke we can all laugh about, if it wants to be anything other than just another bad Italian restaurant in a neighborhood drowning in bad Italian, if it wants to have more than three tables occupied at 8pm, then I recommend dropping the bullshit gimmicks. Drop the karaoke singers and the Latin Night, and the ladies night “must be over 18 to party” dance club crap. Drop the Tex Mex brunch (yeah, you read right, an Italian restaurant with a Tex Mex brunch) and drop the tacky signage. Focus on the food. Hire a chef. A real one with a culinary degree. They should design a menu from scratch with five appetizers, ten entrees, three desserts and one special and start making meals that people talk about for days later because they're so good, not because they're so embarrassing.

Alternatively, they could close, which would be fine, too.


Wayno2424 June 16, 2010 at 1:13 PM  

Dude, why would u EVER go to Positano TWICE?????? You shouldve told me u were going there and i woulda kicked u in the stomach and took 50 bucks from ya and you woulda felt better.

I am convinced the place is a front to wash money as the rent must be sky high and there is never anybody but elderly and their helpers in taht place.

I know u dont consider Dee's italian but besides that Da Silvana on Yellowstone is the best Italian in Forest Hills, very good food, great service and good value although not cheap.

Jon Parker June 16, 2010 at 1:25 PM  

I didn't go twice. That would have been silly. Thanks for the offer to assault me though.

Rebekah June 16, 2010 at 2:24 PM  

Rumors abound on the Forest Hills Paren Group on Yahoo that Positano is going out and Piu Bello is moving into that space.

Jon Parker June 16, 2010 at 2:54 PM  

My understanding thus far is that the Piu Bello people will be running the rear solarium area, which looks totally different from the front.

However, since the menu hasn't changed since the management switch, it looks like that this was merely a cosmetic change to a restaurant that needs a complete overhaul.

Yellowstone,  June 16, 2010 at 4:18 PM  

Please do me a favor and try Da Silvana. To me they are the best classic Italian place in the area and they are some of the nicest guys around.
Also if you want something a little more modern you can try Tuscan Hills which is very good and would make you appreciate how bad Positano, Pasta Del Giorno and Portofino truly are.

HarmSkills June 16, 2010 at 8:14 PM  

I think Ill skip Positano. Ive always wondered about that place.

Anonymous,  June 17, 2010 at 7:34 AM  

You are either a very brave or very bored man Jon Parker. Either way, thanks for the plunge.

Erica June 18, 2010 at 8:27 AM  

Is it wrong that I love when you go to bad restaurants more than when you go to the good ones?

Because if it is, I really don't want to be right.

Jon Parker June 18, 2010 at 11:54 AM  

Erica, come on. You know you're never wrong.

Anonymous,  June 18, 2010 at 2:14 PM  

Hilarious! But do try Tuscan Hills...they serve real food.

EricMM,  June 19, 2010 at 6:55 PM  

I went to what is now Positano in one of its earlier guises....it was the all time absolute worst Italian food i have ever had in my life. We got there the restaurant was nearly empty...not a good sign on a Friday or Saturday night. I had a martini, which was the only thing of quality that night (it was very good). After an unconscionably long wait, I got my mixed seafood over pasta....now I like al dente...I do not like raw! They just stuck a handful of pasta in the pot and didn't bother to stir....so one end was somewhat edible, the other end was raw. The seafood itself was unmemorable...I lived afterwards so it was safe enough to eat...and bland enough to forget. By the time we got our food the restaurant was totally empty, and remained that way. Never, ever again! It makes the Family look like a classy Manhattan place, and Portofino a 4 star award winner.

Anonymous,  June 21, 2010 at 10:44 AM  

I walk by this place ALL THE TIME. Walked by yesterday with my kids thinking maybe we'll try it out. Piu Bello in the back, Italian in the front...how bad could it be? Bad...really, really bad. Thanks for this horrendous review. I think I'm cured of my curiosity.

Michael L June 30, 2010 at 9:19 PM  

I second Tuscan Hills. Similar to Il Poeta. Real restaurant people.

Laura Lutz July 17, 2010 at 11:40 AM  

I'm with Erica.

Thank you so much for sacrificing your time, money, and intestinal system for posterity. We appreciate that you keep suffering so the rest of us don't have to.

I keep hearing great things about Da Silvana but haven't tried it yet. Think it's time you gave it a shot.

But you know me - I'm heading out in a hour to have lunch at Cabana. Their sangria and paella keeps me going back again and again.

EricMM,  July 25, 2010 at 3:37 PM  

Just tried Da Silvana last night...for the first time. Amazing, since I have lived here 23 years and its probably my closest restaurant. It is very good for "classic" Italian food. Its not cheap, but the food is good and the portions are enough to make it worthwhile.

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