• 26-21 Jackson Avenue
• Long Island City, NY 11101
• (718) 392-3885 •

A hop, skip, and a jump away from where Amazon had been planning to put its secondary headquarters rests Levante, an upscale trendy Italian restaurant that I decided to take Lutsy to for Valentine's Day. Frankly, I find little more boring than choosing food off an Italian menu. Chicken marsala for the nine-hundredth time will never get my panties wet and that's exactly why I chose Levante. They don't just serve up the tired standards.

Once you walk in, you immediately feel way cooler than you did on the sidewalk. The staff dresses like they work at a fashion magazine. The ceiling is about twenty feet high and a huge weathered brick wall dominates the space. It feels like it could be an art gallery if only there weren't people eating and drinking. In the back is a large open pizza oven where pizza chefs char up some quite pretty looking pies.

Lutsy and I were given the last seats available, which were at the bar. Honestly, I prefer bar seats, especially in winter so my long coat doesn't drag on the ground while resting on the back of my chair. We ordered some drinks, chatted about our day, and selected some appetizers. Unlike myself, Lutsy in fact does like dime-a-dozen red sauce joints and it gave her a little bit of joy to see something as "normal" as Arancini on the menu. Arancini, a deep-fried rice ball stuffed with cheese (in Levante's case, four cheeses) is not exactly what one orders to pretend to be healthy, and I do make the attempt at pretending. I ordered the Indivia Salad, a plate of endive greens, grilled shrimp, avocado, and radicchio under a lemon dressing. It was perfect. Light, slightly bitter, slightly sour, and perfectly balanced. Lutsy, for her part, loved her arancini. We were off to a good start.

My entree was the Pollo, a simple name for a not-so-simple dish. Levante says that the chicken (organic of course) is made "cacciatora" style, though it didn't seem that way to me. The chicken itself was excellent, if oddly spongy, and the jus was likewise very good. But the overabundance of olives, which overpowered much of the subtly flavor of the rest of the meal, was disappointing. Lutsy enjoyed it far more than I did, so maybe you will as well. The dish is also quite heavy and even if I wanted to finish it, I wouldn't have been able to. Lutsy ordered the Manzo, a grilled skirt steak with sweet peppers, chantarelle mushroom, and salumi. My terrible photo does not do the dish a service. It was quite good. Indeed, as it wasn't buried in olives, the meat had taste. Lutsy definitely won the battle of the entrees. Even though Levante has a whole selection of pizzas available, we did not get one. It would have been way too much. Still, they looked and smelled very good and with our seats  right by the oven, I was sorely tempted to get one.

For dessert, we split a Creme Brulee, served independent of a ramekin and beautifully plated next to pomegranate and cream. Delicious, but as you can see, quite small.

My entree notwithstanding, Levante was a great meal. There aren't enough interesting Italian restaurants in the world and having one a few subway stops away is appreciated. They filled up so I definitely recommend making reservations. Sure, this was Valentine's Day, but something tells me that it stays full often.

Appetizers average $15. Entrees average $25. Pastas average $20. Pizzas range from $12 to $23 depending on size and style.

Copyright 2019.

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