Manducatis is an experience. Here's what I wrote about it elsewhere:
The eminently hideous façade of Manducatis (13-27 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens, 718-729-4602, G to Van Alst, 7 to Courthouse Square, E/F to Ely), evoking an ammunition storage facility not a restaurant, hardly prepares one for the even less remarkable anteroom, which has caused many to turn away in the belief that the restaurant closed rather than opened in 1978. Having a reservation hardly builds confidence, because telephone conversations with Vencenzo Cerbone are equivocal at best. Once seated, you may or may not be acknowledged within half an hour -- the wisecracking Anthony, the son, single-handedly waits on every table, and you wait your turn. Don't challenge the staff or try to expedite the process: This is an idiosyncratic family business that would just as soon not deal with new customers (despite enough rave reviews to wallpaper the place, the party line is that they'd rather not be written about at all). Your order then makes its way to Ida (wife of Vincent) in the kitchen, who prepares all the food with little assistance. Eventually, you may get a crust of bread, perhaps a glass of water. Then, the deluge.
Fresh pasta dishes are the most compelling items on the menu, with the fettucini-portobello-tomato permutation leading the pack. (Even William Grimes likes it.) Stuffed pastas, particularly manicotti, are nearly as impressive. The calamari, not fried, is the most tender I've encountered. Entrees are what you'd expect: The menu could easily be confused with that of your crummy neighborhood red-sauce place, but, as at all the restaurants discussed herein, the dishes have a vibrancy and realness that sets them apart. They're executed with panache and there are even a few interesting Manducatis departures, such as pork chops alla paesana, with scallions, peppers and vinegar. Daily specials demand consideration as well -- the surest way to get the best is to place your trust in Anthony. Cannolis are hand-filled and couldn't be better, and the espresso and cappuccino are superior specimens.
Once you get through the hazing period and the Cerbones satisfy themselves that you're a worthy customer -- a process that takes two or three well-behaved visits -- you're on the inside track, rendering service a non-issue. But even if Manducatis (which lacks an apostrophe because it is not a possessive but, rather, Latin for "you eat") served only attitude, you'd have to visit for the wine list. When Joseph Nase, long the sommelier at Lespinasse, turned me on to Manducatis, he told me, "I've simply never seen a better Italian wine list when prices are taken into account." And that's the truth.
You'll want to look at the August issue of my newsletter for my thoughts on several of New York's old-school Italian restaurants.
Thanks for your praise regarding my Babbo review, though I must confess it doesn't take a genius to realize the food there is good.