BY LYNN EDMONDS
The Due Ponti, Italian for two bridges, could be the perfect backdrop to celebrate Mother’s day on May 8th.
Named for its view of the Throgs Neck and the Bronx Whitestone Bridge, the Italian restaurant Due Ponti of Whitestone provides the kind of cityscape background to your fair-weather dining experience that is reserved for most Hollywood movies. When weather permits, the fine Italian restaurant opens up their patio that extends to a wide dock, offering beautiful views of the Long Island Sound and the bridges.
The restaurant’s new chef, John Cicinelli, is offering a special Prix Fixe Dinner in honor of mothers. The appetizers including crispy calamari, fresh mozzarella and tomato basil salad and baked stuffed artichoke hearts. Hearty Entrées of salmon, veal scaloppini and roasted prime rib offer hearty and healthy meat options. And of course the menu is not complete without a sweet strawberry short cake or classic NY cheese cake by pastry chef Carmelina. There is also a heavily discounted children’s menu for youngsters under 12 who want to celebrate with their mamas. They can choose from chicken fingers, burgers, ravioli, or spaghetti and meatballs.
Cicinelli came to Due Ponti in fall of last year. He studied his art in Milan at the Ristorante Marchesi, and for 15 years was on a culinary sojourn throughout Italy and France. At Due Ponti, his first project was to create a seasonal menu that featured heartier fish and meat dishes more popular in Northern Italy during the colder seasons and the vegetable-laden dishes popular in the south during the summer months.
His mantra is, “Make it authentic and make it good!” He notes that many restaurants in the area offer mostly Italian-American fair. He points out popular shrimp parmesan dishes and states that restaurants in Italy would never pair fish with dairy. “This place is too beautiful for shrimp parmesan,” he exclaims.
In October he started a tradition of wine tasting at the location, beginning with wines from the Lombardi region of Italy. “We’re gonna start off in the north and go south,” he said. He’s thinking the tasting, which he wants to include a five course meal, will be about $65. “It will be worth every penny,” he said.
Cicinelli, who once owned and operated a three star restaurant in Battery Park, said, “We can get four stars here.”
He also enjoys dazzling with the simplicity of dishes like bouchot mussels with fresh thyme, white wine, garlic and shallots.
Cicinelli explains bouchot mussels are grown on ropes; they are bigger, cleaner and meatier.
Another simple dish, Arancini are stuffed rice balls with Ragu and cheese, then coated in bread crumbs. What may seem like a heavy dairy dish, is actually quite light fair. It is lightly creamy with its delicate bread crumb exterior.
His pappardelle with Bolognese style ragu is the perfect dish for a cool spring evening while dining outside. The large flat pasta noodles, which he makes himself, are cooked al-dente and the heartiness of the meat sauce warms the stomach nicely.
For his heartiest dish, he has a seared steak in gorgonzola sauce with red wine beef reduction. Cicinelli is no stranger to popular Italian-American dishes such as chicken parmesan which he serves with his homemade pasta in the center not to distract from the chicken.