The Best Places To Eat Near Sinatra
By Nicolas Rimalovski and Linden Runnels
Astoria, Queens is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the United States. That diversity is reflected in its incredibly varied food scene. Astoria is recognized as one of the culinary centers of New York City with cuisines from all around the world: Greek, Italian, Middle-Eastern, Chinese, Korean, Indian, West-African.
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) students enjoy grabbing a bite to eat at local restaurants after school and before rehearsals and shows. No restaurant is more popular with FSSA students than Napoli Pizza on 35th Ave, which serves pizza and pastas for a sit-down dinner or to go. Founded in 2010, Napoli Pizza had been faithfully serving FSSA students until May of last year when the restaurant suffered significant damage from a chimney fire, forcing the restaurant to temporarily close. Long-time customers of Napoli created a Go Fund Me page to pay its workers while owner, Antonio Petito, got to work restoring the restaurant to its original condition. The restaurant is now back up and running with all its former workers, including Petito’s son and daughter, back cooking and serving.
Senior Instrumental Major Alejandro Meyer-Nilliasca has been a regular customer of Napoli since his freshman year.
“The location is perfect since it’s only two blocks away. It’s super convenient to grab a slice to eat after a rehearsal or show,” he said. Alejandro’s own personal recommendation is the Upside Down Pizza.
“I’ve only seen a pizza slice with cheese on the bottom and sauce on top at Napoli,” he explained. “The baked ziti and fettuccini alfredo are also great options.”
While Frank Sinatra students might go to Napoli mostly for their pizzas, the restaurant is also known for its many pasta and meat dishes, such as chicken parmigiana, fried calamari, ground-beef lasagna, and penne alla vodka. Each night, the chef at Napoli creates fresh specials for the day. One item on the menu made fresh to order each day are the zeppoles, an Italian pastry made of deep-fried dough dusted in powdered sugar. We recommend buying 3 warm zeppoli for the bargain price of one dollar if you want a delicious snack and are on a tight budget. Other classic Italian desserts include tiramisu, ricotta cheesecake and cannoli. Napoli is much more than a pizzeria and the perfect spot to enjoy a home-cooked Italian meal with family and friends after a Frank Sinatra show.
Another authentic Mediterranean meal can be found at the Greek restaurant Bahari Estiatorio, located at 31-14 Broadway. Bahari, which is frequently listed as one of the best Greek restaurants in New York City, offers a warm and friendly atmosphere with exposed brick walls, white table cloths, and an open-air kitchen where customers can see the cooks hard at work preparing their meals. In an attempt to bring the sea life of Greece to Queens, at the entrance of Bahari is a glass-enclosed refrigerator where whole fish keep a watch on visitors.
What Bahari has definitely brought from Greece to Queens is the country’s cuisine, with the restaurant serving traditional homestyle Greek dishes such as moussaka, souvlaki (skewers of grilled meat) and pan-fried feta with fresh lemon. On its website, the owners of Bahari claim that the inspiration for their dishes dates back to the fourth century when Greece was part of the Byzantine empire. As one would expect from a country comprising thousands of islands, fish features heavily on the menu and ranges from baby shark to squid.
Vegetarians can also enjoy a feast at Bahari. In addition to their charcoal grilled fish and meats, Bahari offers traditional oven and casserole dishes that consist of lima beans, eggplant, potatoes, artichokes, peppers and other vegetables. The restaurant also serves an extensive list of salads and cold appetizers, like roasted eggplant, tzatziki a yogurt spread with chopped cucumber and garlic, and a spicy whipped feta spread. Every meal at Bahari ends with complementary squares of semolina cake sweetened with honey.
If you’re craving some warmer food during the winter months, however, just two short blocks from Frank Sinatra, on the corner of 36th Avenue and 34th Street, sits one of the best ramen restaurants in Astoria: Susuru Ramen. Opened in the summer of 2020, the restaurant was forced to start as a takeout and delivery spot since indoor dining was prohibited due to COVID-19 restrictions. Since then, Susuru Ramen has flourished as a casual eat-in restaurant.
Susuru’s menu is extensive with ramen bowls, poke dishes and buns to choose from. All the ramen bowls include perfectly cooked noodles submerged in silky, light broths that vary from being miso, veggie, and chicken based. If you’re in the mood for traditional ramen, the miso and the tantan are both hearty bowls that come with all the fixings – softboiled egg, bamboo shoots, and melt in your mouth pork chashu. Feeling adventurous? The soupless tantan is a unique pasta-esque bowl that will have you questioning your idea of what ramen is. Besides ramen, the restaurant offers an assortment of poke dishes and, under a section of the menu fittingly called “Snacks,” you’ll find two perfectly crispy bites in the Chicken Karaage or Imo Tempura. Finally, under the “Buns” section of the menu, the Chashu Pork Buns and the Shrimp Katsu buns are easy to miss but worth trying.
Susuru is a cozy space with a minimalist design that seats patrons on wooden stools as they eagerly slurp their ramen bowls. Things move quickly in the restaurant and, if you stick with the snacks, you’ll be treated to a quick and tasty bite. Despite the fast pace, Susuru will have you coming back wanting to try more. Going on its third year in Astoria, the restaurant has slowly grown in popularity, and students have started to try it out.
“It definitely has a super chill, laid-back energy, and the service is great. It’s really just a solid spot to relax for a bit and eat great ramen,” said FSSA senior Instrumental Major Ouma Alexander. Ouma’s favorite dish is the Gykai ramen. We also recommend the Tatan ramen as a dish everyone should try.