By Suzanne Parker
It’s not often that “doctor’s orders” is a reason for a restaurant visit, but my physician’s endorsement of Il Triangolo in Corona was so enthusiastic that it was positively prescriptive. Besides, it’s medicine that couldn’t be easier to take.
Il Triangolo is named for the triangular piece of real estate it occupies at the intersection of Junction Boulevard and Corona Avenue in Corona. The early 20th-century building it inhabits was purchased and lovingly restored in the 1980s by Italian immigrant Angelo Gigliotti, the founder of Il Triangolo. He turned it into an intimate and charming trattoria serving authentic, mostly southern Italian fare paying homage to his Calabrian heritage. The business continues to be a family affair, with son Mario Gigliotti running the front of the house while his wife, Pierina Gigliotti, works her magic in the kitchen.
The first challenge is to avoid stuffing yourself full of the seductive pana di casa made on the premises that arrives at your table. For the full Italian experience, sip a little wine from their affordably priced wine list. They also make and serve their own wine which, regrettably, we missed. It’s ready each year in September and sells out in early spring.
The well-conceived menu of southern Italian crowd pleasers is augmented by specials. Bravo to an appetizer special, a tomato stuffed with cheesy truffle-scented risotto surrounded by thin slices of radish and kohlrabi. Not as much to the Calamari Oreganata Alla Vegetarina, sautéed with white cannellini beans, shallots, roasted garlic, cherry tomatoes and fennel. The flavors were delish, but the tubular only part of the squid was just too rubbery.
Pasta offerings are divided into two categories, di casa (home-made) and secca (dry). Why anyone would opt for dry when they could have Il Triangolo’s lovely, chewy home-made is beyond me, but there’s no accounting for taste. We gobbled the signature pasta dish, Triangolini Ubriaco. It combines sautéed shallots, cute little chodini mushrooms, and Parmesana in a flamed Italian brandy stock. Hence the name ubriaco, which means drunken in Italian. Trianolini refers to the shape of the pasta, rather than the building. The divinely decadent result is ample for sharing, and much too rich to eat alone.
The salmon entrée special was a party of seafood. A well crisped hunk of salmon of prodigious proportions perched on a pair of hefty crab raviolis, which in turn rested on a bed of mussels and dainty fingerling potatoes, all sauced in the south’s characteristic red. This was a soul satisfying fish dish.
Vitello alla Grappa, another signature dish, fell short of the mark. Scallopini are battered and sautéed with fermented grapes in a Grappa sauce. The three generous veal scallops were uncommonly tender. Unfortunately, the sauce tasted a little floury, and of alcohol, as if the dish would have benefitted from just a few more minutes in the pan. We were also only given a choice of pasta or salad as an accompaniment. The dish just screamed out for a green vegetable, and maybe a few of the petite potatoes that were nestled with the salmon.
Like just about everything else on the menu, the desserts are house-made, and worth calories if you need to indulge your sweet tooth.
The Bottom Line
Almost everything that Il Triangolo serves is house-made, and tastes it. Their ingredients are authentic and meticulously sourced. They even offer a selection of their own products like marina sauce and biscotti for sale. Move over Rao’s. If you want to eat like a paisano, head for Corona
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
96-01 Corona Ave., Corona
Price Range: Antipasti: $9—14; Pasta: $15—19; Entrees: $17—28
Cuisine: Italian, with a Calabrian inflection
Setting: Small, classically appointed
Hours: Lunch and Dinner, Tuesday—Sunday, Closed Mondays.
Reservations: Recommended on weekends
Alcohol: Wine & Beer
Parking: Small private lot, valet on weekends.
Dress: Casual to dressy
Credit cards: All
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes