Italian oasis in Flushing offers variety

Italian oasis in Flushing offers variety
Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

There are hundreds of restaurants in Flushing serving up cuisines from all across Asia, but unbeknownst to many, a Sicilian family has been serving expertly prepared Italian food for years tucked away on a quiet downtown side street.

“We’re a little off the beaten path, a hidden gem in Flushing,” said Peter Pecora, of Magna Restaurant. “And we embrace it.”

The understated Magna Restaurant, at 35-25 Farrington St., lets its food do the talking and hits the mark somewhere between casual and upscale. Hardwood floors and brick interiors give the space a cozy feel, but the spotless dining room and crisp white table clothes suggest something more sleek.

The common ingredient in everything on the menu, from breakfast, lunch and dinner, is fresh ingredients, according to Pecora.

The tomatoes in the sauce on the chicken parmesan, served over a bed of spaghetti with mozzarella, taste as if they might have been plucked directly from a plant in the kitchen. And every item on the dessert menu, including the decadent cheesecake, is homemade.

But the eatery’s signature dish, Pollo Alla Magna, is the pride of the family.

The entree consists of bone-in chicken pieces sauteed with garlic, rosemary, lemon and a splash of white wine.

“It’s a favorite,” Pecora said.

Instead of exclusively Sicilian food, Pecora’s father, a well-decorated veteran of the restaurant and hospitality business, decided in 2008 to serve up mainland dishes to fill what he saw as a void in the Flushing market.

“We are the only Italian restaurant in the downtown area,” Pecora said.

Yet few are calling for more competition.

The restaurant is top-rated on several websites by travelers who stay in the attached Marco LaGuardia Hotel, which the family also runs, and Flushing residents who stumble upon the eatery’s yellow awning often become repeat customers.

On a Wednesday afternoon in March, a woman looked up from her menu as the owners walked past and called the restaurant “an oasis.”

But Magna provides more than just water.

The fully stocked bar is open until midnight most nights, although if a crowd gathers the drinks will not stop flowing, according to Pecora.

“We have an extensive wine list,” Pecora said, “which in Flushing is rare.”

A small but dedicated crew of regulars can often be found along the wooden bar. Many are commuters who walk the roughly four blocks from the Long Island Rail Road or No. 7 train stations to unwind at the end of the day.

Those same commuters might want to stop by in the mornings as well, since the restaurant runs a breakfast buffet, in conjunction with the hotel, that is unparalleled in the area, according to Pecora.

No restaurant could be truly Italian without delivering good coffee, and the large espresso machine behind the bar proves itself with a robust Seafredo brew.

Pecora can speak authoritatively about the details of the restaurant, since his family runs nearly every aspect of it.

“We’re family-owned and -operated,” he said, just feet away from his cousin, who was taking lunch orders. “It’s more personal.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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