Nearly four years ago, we stood at the corner 30th Avenue and 28th Street in Astoria, not knowing which way to go. My girlfriend had just moved to the neighborhood, and I was living up in Harlem. Neither of us knew much of anything about Astoria, let alone this particular intersection, and whether to turn left or right.
We probably turned the “wrong way,” heading toward the East River and away from the innumerable shops, cafes, and restaurants of 30th Avenue that would have greeted us had we taken a left that night. Stores and restaurants thinned out. We wandered West until we arrived at the corner of 30th Avenue and 21st Street to discover a soothing, orange glow emanating from an inviting little Italian restaurant with a charming bar and a smattering of diners. The place was, of course, Vesta Trattoria and Wine Bar, and since then, it has become one of our favorite places to eat in Astoria both for the consistently delicious food and the warm, friendly service.
Vesta’s variable menu relies heavily on seasonal ingredients, many of which are farmed from the nearby Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm that (despite it’s name) is located in Long Island City. This time of year, we like to share the rich, hearty Lasagna with meat ragu and the Potato and Pancetta pizza with a creamy caramelized onion sauce replacing the typical red sauce, and topped with piles of arugula, apple, and goat cheese. A recent addition to the menu, the perfectly fried Risotto Arancini served on a bed of fresh arugula, has become a new obsession. Crispy Brussel Sprouts with crumbled parmesan cheese rounds out the perfect meal for a February night.
Winter morning brunches are also exceptional at Vesta. We like to order the L’Italiano which features poached eggs, sopressata and fresh ricotta cheese balanced on a raft of grilled Italian bread, and the savory Mucho Cheese Pizza with toasted pine nuts, rosemary, and chili flakes. Vesta also recently added a selection of Balthazar pastries to the brunch menu which you can order to stay or conveniently grab to go. And regardless of the time of day, or the season, every meal at Vesta should end with the La Torta del Piccolo Bambino Gesu Cristo or Little Baby Jesus Cake, an unassuming yet heavenly slice of warm date cake with a caramel sauce and fresh whipped cream.
On our most recent visit to Vesta, just this past weekend, we were again treated to an exceptional meal and phenomenal service. At the end of the meal, they generously sent us a Baby Jesus cake along with a new dessert: a delicious trio of ice creams. These included a cinnamon ice cream, a chocolate covered pretzel ice cream, and, brilliantly, a Baby Jesus Cake ice cream which includes chunks of the famous date cake. Vesta is truly special restaurant, and it always feels like a first home in Astoria to us. And that’s one of many reasons that I can can say, without a doubt, that we turned in the right direction four years ago and have been being rewarded for it ever since.