By Joe Anuta
All those small samples really added up at the eighth-annual Taste of Bayside Feb. 2, where a congregation of the neighborhood’s bistros left residents clutching their stuffed stomachs with a mixture of satisfaction and regret.
The ground floor of the Adria Hotel, at 220-33 Northern Blvd. was packed with representatives of 25 restaurants, alcohol distributors and even a cigar store offering their wares to curious residents who sampled the best Bell Boulevard and the surrounding streets had to offer.
“We want to showcase the restaurants of Bayside,” said Judith Limpert, president of the Bayside Business Association, which sponsored the event. “A lot of people don’t get to go out and visit all the restaurants.”
And those people appreciated having all the eateries in one location.
“It gives you an idea of new places in the neighborhood,” said Bayside resident Dave McCarthy. “And we get to catch up with neighbors we haven’t seen over the course of the year.”
And since restaurants from all over Bayside participated, McCarthy made up for all those missed dinner dates at one location.
This was McCarthy’s second year attending the event and he recommended several dishes from a makeshift Little Italy in one corner of the room.
Papazzio, at 39-38 Bell Blvd., offered its chicken bianco, which was perfectly bathed in a wine sauce and complemented with a combination of artichokes, mushrooms and tomatoes.
The shrimp from Marbella, at 220-33 Northern Blvd., also came highly recommended.
But the hot item was the portobello mushroom ravioli, a speciality of Cascarino’s at 39-17 Bell Blvd. Those lucky enough to snag one of the large pillows of pasta got to enjoy the savory mushroom filling served with a cream sauce so delectable most people would not want to know what goes into it.
But Italian was not the only cuisine represented at the event.
There was a Mexican restaurant dispensing Margaritas as well as several American eateries that tried their version of pulled pork. It showed up in macaroni and cheese and even inside a taco. But the best incarnation was inside the sliders from Strawberry’s Sports Grill at 42-15 235th St. The perfectly seasoned pork, which had a mild zest, was cooked to perfection and served with coleslaw on half-dollar-sized buns.
Local Bar and Grill, at 39-24 Bell Blvd., also had sliders, and packed an entire meal in-between the bread.
The eatery’s tiny meatloaf sliders, topped with mashed potatoes and corn, were irresistible to even the most disciplined residents of the community.
Capt. Ronald Leyson, of Bayside’s 111th Precinct, could not help himself and snuck a slider onto his plate even after declaring himself stuffed.
“I think it’s great to see everyone out here,” Leyson said. “Business is tough in these economic times.”
And the restaurant owners were glad to see everyone out as well, even their competitors.
“We want Bayside to get busy again,” said Jimmy Coady, owner of Cascarino’s and the mastermind behind the portobello mushroom ravioli. “We need to team up and show that we have the best food in any neighborhood.”
Coady’s restaurant has attended Taste of Bayside ever since it started, but has seen foot traffic in the neighborhood decline.
“We used to get people from Westchester [County], Connecticut and New Jersey,” Coady said.
The travelers used to arrive at the neighborhood’s Long Island Rail Road stop, eat dinner and then go to one of the many bars that line Bell Boulevard, but business dropped during the economic recession and has not picked up as quickly as Coady would have liked.
“Bayside is getting old,” he said. “We need some rejuvenation.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.