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Food and Drink

DINING OUT: Ristorante Vaccaro

Classic Italian cuisine with a twist is the star at Dyker Heights’s beloved eatery, Ristorante Vaccaro, which has been dishing out a wide range of favorite foods, con amore, for the past 13 years.

An offshoot of the pizzeria next door, which was started by restaurateur Dom Vaccaro three decades ago, the elegant restaurant offers dining at its finest.

“It’s traditional Italian cuisine but we do our own spin on it,” explained Michael Vaccaro.

“We also do a lot of signature dishes,” Vaccaro went on. “We like to do our traditional menu but bring in a lot of specials for the weekend. We want our customers wanting more.”

The set-up works well. “We have customers who come in and order the same thing every day,” he said, “and we have ones who come in and try all the specials.”

While the restaurant has long offered wine and liquor, recently it has put in a new bar and brought in a bartender on weekends.

“We have an extensive menu of wines, almost strictly Italian, though we do carry some California wines as well,” said Vaccaro. As for liquor, he said, “Previously, we didn’t have an extensive liquor list. Now we have a fully stocked bar.”

We didn’t sample any of the alcohol (it was the middle of a work day), so we focused on the food dished out by Vaccaro’s kitchen, tasting appetizers, pasta dishes, a salad, a main course and a dessert.

To start out, we tried Vongole (Clams) Oreganata ($10), tasty morsels baked under a blanket of garlicky bread crumbs, and the Calamari Fritti (Fried Calamari, $10), which were crispy and addictive, served with lemon wedges and a bowl of marinara sauce.

Then, we feasted on a selection of pastas. The Rigatoni con Zucchini ($14) was exquisite, perfectly al dente pasta robed in a light tomato sauce with possibly the sweetest zucchini (“lightly fried,” Vaccaro confided) we had ever tasted in golden circles on top. Adding savor were garlic and basil, and lashings of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Also delicious was the Linguine alla Vongole (Linguine in White Clam Sauce, $16), al dente strands of pasta enhanced with plenty of garlic and fresh parsley and topped by four clams still in the shell. Yum!

Vaccaro’s offers a variety of salads, but we tried one of its signature dishes, the Insalata di Pera ($10), a toothsome combination of fresh sliced pears, tomatoes and red onion with walnuts and pignoli for crunch and golden raisins for added sweetness, on a bed of mesclun. The salad was studded with chunks of tart goat cheese and dressed with oil, vinegar and spices. It was sweet, but not overly so, and satisfying but not filling.

We both enjoyed another signature dish, the Pollo Vaccaro ($21), as our main course, with al dente broccoli and a single crispy potato wedge on the side. In this exquisite entrée, boneless breast of chicken is topped with prosciutto and melted mozzarella and crowned with a slice of tomato topped by a single large shrimp. The sauce contains both Shiitake mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes – a flavor combination that we hadn’t previously tried, and enjoyed immensely.

Finally, we indulged in Homemade Italian Cheesecake ($7), made in Vaccaro’s kitchen as are the Tiramisu di Casa and the Chocolate Lava Cake. The cheesecake – a classic Italian version made with ricotta — is served with a swirl of fresh whipped cream garnished with strawberry slices, and was worth every bite, tender and rich and eminently satisfying, the perfect finale to a beautifully orchestrated meal.

RISTORANTE VACCARO

6716 Fort Hamilton Parkway

Brooklyn, NY 11219

718-238-9447

Open 11 a.m.- 11 p.m. daily

Ristorantevaccaro.com

Take-out and catering available

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