>> Friday, January 22, 2016

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

At a certain point, out of both fairness and utility, I'm going to have to start returning to restaurants that haven't been reviewed in a while. Tuscan Hills is as good a place as any to start. It'd been years since going here, largely because it's a little out of the way for me and its sister restaurant, Ovo Sodo, which I happen to like a lot, is much closer. My first visit to Tuscan Hills was years ago, when I was dating Operagirl. I was sick at the time and going out to dinner was, looking back, a bad idea. Long story short, on the walk home I regifted what I'd eaten to some poor guy's lawn. Subsequent visits were more comfortable.

This time, I went with Pike. Tuscan Hills was about two-thirds full and we had no trouble getting a table. As you can see, the decor is more rustic Italian bistro than the John's Of 12th Street-esque traditional red sauce places where the staff wears that tuxedo-like uniform. It's upscale casual (though frankly, the jerkoff in the photo could have at least taken off his baseball cap. If you so desperately need to wear a Yankees cap at the table and dress like a bum, go to Buffalo Wild Wings... (God, I sound like an old man. Still, seriously, take off the fucking hat).

My appetizer was the Insalata Di Polpo, an octopus salad with olives, carrots, capers, and lemon. If you don't like tart, cold Mediterranean salads, I'd skip it. But in my opinion, the salad was very good, and I'm glad I tried it. That said, the octopus was a wee bit tougher than I would have liked. I know nothing about cooking octopus, but I know I've had it more tender before. Pike ordered the Cozze Marinara, steamed mussels in a tomato garlic broth. We both liked it. The mussels weren't very large, but they also weren't gritty and the sauce had some bite to it. Maybe I wouldn't order it every day, but it was a refreshing change of pace from the more ubiquitous white wine broth one usually finds their mussels made with. 

For his entree, Pike opted for the Ravioli Con Gamberi, a cheese ravioli dish with mushrooms, shrimp, and tomato in a light tomato sauce. He enjoyed it and I recall it being a very flavorful, light dish. I ordered the Pici Alla Fondelli, fettuccine in a wild boar and black olive ragout. The pasta was perfect and the sauce was almost perfect. The olives added a little too much sourness. If they used half as much, I'd have been enthralled. Much like my octopus, the wild boar was a little on the tough, dry side, but I'll chalk that up to wild boar being a decidedly gamey meat. I wanted to love the dish and I would have, but for the overabundance of olives.

This was one of those rare occasions where we ordered dessert and the reasons completely escape me. Pike ordered the Panna Cotta, a vanilla cream pudding that was perfectly fine. I ordered the Cannoli Alla Siciliana, which left a little to be desired. Maybe it's having grown up a short walk from Veniero's that leaves me nonplussed by most Italian pastry that isn't Veniero's but this particular cannoli, with a little chocolate shell was brittle, didn't have much filling (basically it just drained onto the plate), and desperately needed to be dunked into my coffee like a doughnut.

We did not order drinks, so I can't speak to the wine list, but expect to pay an average of $12 for an appetizer, $15 for a 13-inch pizza, $17 for a pasta, and $24 for an entree. On the whole, I enjoyed my experience. The staff was pleasant and neither ignored you nor was in your face every five minutes. The lights seemed a bit bright for dinner, but the atmosphere was relaxed. That said, neither Pike nor I were completely blown away by any particular part of the meal enough to make the hike something that we would do with any regularity and on the walk back to our neck of the woods agreed that between Ovo Sodo and Tuscan Hills, we preferred Ovo Sodo. Although if looking in the window at the empty tables is any indication, we may well be the only people in the borough with that opinion.


Susan February 5, 2016 at 8:14 AM  
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Susan February 5, 2016 at 8:16 AM  

I have to say, I am so very surprised that you prefer Oso Vodo over Tuscan Hills. You and I are pretty much always in agreement. Just goes to show how subjective food can actually be.

Admittedly, it's been a while since I've been to Tuscan Hills. I was hoping to take a friend yesterday for a birthday lunch, but he preferred to stay in his neck of the woods (Astoria), so we went to The Sparrow Tavern instead.

With that said, I always found the service and food far superior at Tuscan Hills, in addition to finding the menu much more interesting and the atmosphere much more calming.

Truth is, these days I find myself heading out more often in the neighborhood for lunch versus dinner. So that can indeed be two very different dining experiences.

Nevertheless, always enjoy your reviews - even repeats.

Ellen M.,  February 6, 2016 at 2:12 AM  

I live down the block from Tuscan Hills, and I have been a regular there since they opened. Confession time: I, too, prefer Ovo Sodo. I like the more casual vibe and the menu. Tuscan Hills is more convenient, but Ovo Sodo gets my business.

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