Located in Astoria at the end of the line at Ditmars Boulevard, this casual family-run restaurant is a bit of a journey for Manhattanites. Since the restaurant doesn't take reservations, the line for a dinner table at this place can seem interminable on a Friday or Saturday night, with waiting times stretching out to an hour and a half for a party of two. They are, however, open for lunch, and with daily specials (except Sundays) it's tempting to sneak out of the office for a couple hours.
The food is the main draw here. All the grilled seafood dishes are given the same treatment — olive oil, salt, pepper, a little time on the charcoal grill, oregano, and some red-wine vinegar. The simplicity underscores the level of execution and the quality of the ingredients. Try the grilled calamari — juicy, succulent, and slightly smoky with the right amount of charring around the outside — a far cry from the rubbery, lifeless rings many other seafood places serve. Lemon potatoes are the perfect accompaniment to the meal — a tart contrast to the richness of the squid. Also, don't miss the grilled fresh sardines, a far cry from the fishy masses that come from the can — even if you don't like sardines, you'll turn into a believer. If you're coming with a larger party, it might be a good idea to spring for a whole grilled fish — depending on the season, the kitchen will feature snapper, porgy, and branzino. At dinner, service can be a bit brusque, and the ambience a bit rowdy as closely-packed diners compete to be heard. The crowd consists of families and locals, although if you're coming from the city you won't find yourself alone as this place is a major draw for savvy diners. Lunch is considerably more relaxed, with a smaller crowd mostly concentrated around outdoor tables ideal for people-watching in the summer. Prices are modest, especially at lunch.
The final verdict? Although this place is a bit of a journey for most, you'd be hard pressed to find fresh seafood executed with the same level of honesty and simplicity in the city for the same price. And if you can, go during lunch.