2002-08-21 / Restaurant of the Week


Of The WeekEl Olivo Offers Enchanted Evenings
By Teresa Barile

Of The Week
El Olivo Offers Enchanted Evenings

For seven years, Riccardo Agayo has been welcoming guests for a taste of sunny Spain right here in Astoria. This eatery is known for its authentic interpretation of the cuisine of Galicia in northern Spain and the quality of the dishes is always consistently fresh and superbly prepared. Only the freshest fish, seafood, chicken and steak are used and each dish is prepared to order and served table side on linen-covered carts.

The interior features white walls adorned with various emblems, swords and coats of arms. Deep red carpeting and soft lighting add to the dramatic effect. A large bar in the center of the room offers aperitifs, wines from Spain and mixed drinks. Sangria, a drink made from wine and sherry sweetened with fresh fruit, is a perfect accompaniment to many of the dishes on the menu. Both the red and white sangrias are excellent.

Some new and tempting appetizers have been added to the menu, and I heartily recommend them. Stuffed sweet peppers are served chilled with a sweet filling. Serrano ham, directly from Spain, is similar to prosciutto, but sliced thicker and served with olives. The boquerones, tiny, fresh sardines that have been marinated in a tangy vinaigrette, are perfect for sharing. Other tried and true appetizers such as chorizo, Spanish sausage that is grilled and sliced thin, and the stuffed mushrooms, bite-sized and filled with seasoned bread crumbs, are both great choices. For something really special, try the pulpo a la gallega, a warm stew of tender octopus prepared with delicate spices. You'll also enjoy one of their satisfying soups like sopa de mariscos, a hearty seafood soup brimming with shrimp and clams in a delicious broth.

The most famous dish of Spain, paella, is cooked in a heavy metal pot, and combines chicken, sausage and seafood with lots of saffron-infused rice and peas for a unique and satisfying meal. For a few dollars more, you can add lobster to this heavenly combination. All entrees can be prepared for two people at a nominal charge. The professional waiters elegantly serve your food from a cart brought to your table, and attend to your every request quickly and courteously.

El Olivo serves only the freshest seafood, a big part of Spanish cuisine. Try their signature dish of shrimp with garlic. This dish combines plump, fresh shrimp with a special roasted garlic sauce that is out of this world. Shrimp ajillo is also available as an appetizer, and I strongly recommend it, as well as shrimp in green parsley sauce with garlic. You can also enjoy red snapper sautéed with zesty capers in a light lemon sauce for a lighter dish. Other wonderful choices include fresh salmon prepared in a fragrant green parsley sauce and mussels in white wine and garlic sauce. For a real treat indulge in twin lobsters, cooked any style. or surf and turf.

Chicken estremena is prepared with smoky chorizo sauce, onions and peppers and is served with Spanish rice or their famous homemade potato chips. Weekly specials such as soft shell crabs, broiled lamb chops and even a couple of new Italian dishes round out the menu. Fresh vegetables and salad come with your entrée as well. Best of all, the prices are very reasonable and the portions are huge, so bring a hungry crowd. Birthdays and other occasions are made special here.

El Olivo is also open for lunch with specials from $7.95 to $8.95. Agayo keeps very busy with his second Spanish restaurant, Las Brisas, near the Citibank building in Long Island City. Both restaurants offer the same great menu and can do private parties for up to 30 people. Las Brisas is closed on Sundays, while El Olivo is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Finish your meal with a glass of port, a traditional after-dinner wine from Spain and some flan, a baked custard with a sweet caramelized sugar glaze. There's also fresh fruit sorbets, chocolate mousse cake and strawberry cheesecake. Café con leche is the Spanish version of cappuccino and is served steaming hot, or you could try some coffee flavored with various liqueurs and cream. El Olivo and Las Brisas offer the best in Spanish cuisine, excellent service and reasonable prices. Credit cards are accepted. Open Sunday through Thursday from noon till 11 p.m. and till midnight on the weekend.

El Olivo

21-15 31st St. Astoria,


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