By Bradley Shanker
Nestled on the corner of Lefferts Blvd in suburban Queens is Don Peppe: a family owned and operated restaurant, cooking up traditional Italian food by the masses. The restaurant was opened in 1968 and is one large room filled with simple horse racing and sporting decor. Once seated, one may look to open a menu, as is the usual in a restaurant; however, there are none to be found. In order to find the dishes being served, one must look up to the central wall and read a blackboard. Don’t get me wrong… I love trying new foods and all, but you won’t find kale, quinoa, or acai at Don Peppe! Instead you’ll find fresh tomatoes, clams, pasta, and more! The food is excellent and tastes like Grandma’s Sunday cooking. It is also served in enormous portions.
To start, I suggest ordering the special salad, which comes in a bracing vinaigrette dressing. In fact, you could purchase all of the ingredients that make up this salad: red peppers, tomatoes, olives, lettuce, onions, provolone, salami, and Italian dressing. However, you wouldn’t be able to make the salad taste as good, and I can’t figure out why. The salad will be prepared, plated, and served tableside by your waiter. I recommend getting the anchovies on the side (blech). Then, grab an order of the baked clams. I mean, that is what Don Peppe is known for… the clams come out hot and are scrumptious! They are crunchy, but still soft when eaten. It must be magic! After you swipe the extra sauce off the plate with bread (that somehow justs tastes better than any other restaurant bread), order the chicken in lemon and butter sauce, which is Don Peppe’s version of the Chicken Francaise. Who knew that a dish as simple as chicken, lemon, and butter could taste so good? The chicken melts in your mouth, while still remaining tender enough to cut — and the sauce is a hot and melty mixture of lemon and butter that tastes astounding. If you are somehow still hungry after these three courses, then order the fettuccine al prosciutto, which is thick fettuccine noodles served in a rich red sauce. The sauce is then blended with pieces of prosciutto meat, leaving you with the taste of rich tomatoes and salty prosciutto – a wonderful combination if I do say so myself. There is no way you could still be hungry after all of this food, but if you could somehow manage to even think about dessert, make the decision a quick one by choosing to order the sorbetto. The sorbetto is thick and lemon flavored and is served in a sugar-coated lemon.
Now, there are a few things to know before going to Don Peppe. They don’t take reservations, but the wait time is always short because people are in and out. Don’t be alarmed if the dining room is full when you get there because it will be packed all night long, from open to closing. Also, the restaurant is cash-only and dishes aren’t too cheap, so stop at the ATM on your way. No matter the cost, it is totally worth it! The dishes I have suggested are both tasty and wallet-friendly. Lastly, since all portions are large and served family-style, I recommend going with a group of people to try out Don Peppe. Now, what are you waiting for?! Get on over to Lefferts Boulevard in Queens and try Don Peppe – you won’t regret it!
Photo courtesy of yelp.com