TUSCAN HILLS

>> Friday, February 11, 2011

TUSCAN HILLS
115-20 Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 487-4500


So many of people wrote me emails or comments asking me to go to Tuscan Hills that I was almost afraid to for fear of not liking it and then getting stoned by an angry mob. But go I did, twice to cover more of the menu, and so here we go.



We denizens of Forest Hills are in no short supply of Italian restaurants. We are, lamentably, in dire need of some good ones. Red sauce slop can be had anywhere, but especially along Austin Street/Queens Boulevard. The last time I had good Italian in FH was at Il Poeta on Metropolitan and they finally appear to have, in my book, actual competition. Though there is some room for improvement, which I'll get into, Tuscan Hills is your best bet for Italian should Il Poeta be too inconvenient.



The interior, with its exposed brick walls, high, wood-beamed ceilings and open kitchen evoke a cooler more West Village vibe than Il Poeta's midtowny, table clothed old-fartiness. The wine list is a decent one with bottles averaging in the $30s and glasses around $7. The regular menu is nice and tight, not a voluminous tome trying to cover every range of taste and they don't have two hundred specials at a time. However, that menu is also laminated in plastic, something that feels tacky and cheap. Both times I went, Tuscan Hills was virtually deserted. This should not be. Not when Portofino is routinely filled (albeit with a very aged crowd).



As I said, I ate two meals here. One with my friend Speeds and one with my friend Lina. Speeds, ever a fan of all things calamari, ordered the Calamari Fritti, a relatively standard fried calamari dish which was very good. The breading wasn't too thick and the calamari wasn't chewy. I stole a good chunk and we both enjoyed it. I also ordered the Ribollita, a white bean soup with kale, tomato, Parmesan and an island of bread floating within. It was a nice, pleasant soup, good for a cold winter, but it was somewhat bland. Yeah, I know, it's a white bean soup. Still, a little bit of bacon would have done wonders. Upon my return with Lina, we ordered their Cozze in Tegame, mussels in a white wine and cream sauce. This was delicious and the mussels were quite large I was extremely impressed.



Speeds ordered the Pici alla Fondelli, a fettucini in a wild boar and olive meat sauce. It was okay. I like wild boar, but, and this is hard to explain, the sauce lacked much in the way of kick. It, like my soup, was somewhat vague and bland. Maybe some Parmesan would have helped, but I feel like it should be able to stand on its own. The pasta was, however, perfect and clearly freshly made, something I can't help but appreciate. I'm a huge gnocchi-lover so I chose the Gnocchi Gratinati, a potato gnocchi in a meat sauce under a big heaping of melted mozzarella. This was good, but not amazing. Hands down, the winner for best gnocchi in the area, if not the city, remains firmly in the grip of Uvarara. This version was like comfort-food gnocchi, not push-the-boundaries-of-what-gnocchi-can-be gnocchi.

When I returned with Lina, she ordered the Rigatoni Alla Norma, an eggplant, basil and mozzarella dish. Actually, she ordered the eggplant pizza but our waiter misheard her and lo came this. It may not have been what she ordered but it was actually extremely good. She especially liked the sauce, which she said tasted fresh, not like it was pizza sauce from a jar. "The thing about Italian food is the sauce. It can make or break the whole dish." She's Italian, so I'll take her word for it. My entree was the Selletta Al Pepe Verde, a skirt steak with green peppercorn and mashed potatoes under a creamy brandy sauce. This, by all rights, should have been perfect, and it could have been but for one problem. The sauce was delicious. The mashed potatoes were melt in your mouth smooth. The steak, though, was cheap, chewy and fatty. If this was a filet mignon or any other boneless cut, it would be fantastic. Alas, 'twas not.



Lina and I didn't order dessert, opting to grab some cupcakes at Martha's instead. But Speeds and I split a Tiramisu for dessert. Very good tiramisu. We were both impressed and wiped the plate clean.



While I may have made a few complaints here, I do legitimately think that Tuscan Hills is a good addition for our dining community and a good sign that Forest Hills restaurants are getting better. The food was solid, the pasta was fresh, the wine was filled to the brim in my glass, the service was good despite that one mistake and the mussels were fantastic. I've heard good things about the pizza but haven't tried it yet. I will certainly put Tuscan Hills on my short list of places that I would enjoy returning to. I just hope they swap out that flank steak by then.

Three appetizers, four entrees, five glasses of wine, two coffees and one dessert, plus tax and tip came to $168 (two meals at $93 and $75).

1 comments:

Susan February 13, 2011 at 5:02 PM  

Glad you finally made the trip to Tuscan Hills Jon. Being one of those folks who has sang Roberto's praises for the past year +, happy to see that overall you had good dining experiences there.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the pizza when you get a chance to try it (we often order the Pizza Margherita as an appetizer). I feel it's the best Forest Hills has to offer.

I also highly recommend Tuscan Hills for brunch (which happens to be where I had brunch today!).

I'm assuming both your dinners have taken place during the week. The last few times I went on the weekend (Friday, Saturday) there have been crowds outside waiting for a table.

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