By Sarina Trangle
Bell Boulevard, say bonjour to French fare.
Sage Bistro Restaurant Group, a Long Island dining company, opened Aperitif on 39th Avenue just east of Bayside’s main drag three weeks ago.
The businesses’ owners, Peter Oktas and Chef Julio Velasquez, who met working in Long Island’s dining industry and went on to open three eateries together, decided to make their first foray in the city along Bell Boulevard because the strip lacked traditional bistro food, Aperitif’s General Manager Alex Huve said.
“We thought it might be a niche for us and because there’s not really a French restaurant around, we could fill a void,” Huve said, while stressing that Sage Bistro Restaurant Group’s four businesses are all distinct. “There are staple dishes that we have on all menus, but each has its own shape and style.”
Huve said Aperitif offers several area exclusives, such as extensive cured meats and cheese offerings, Coq Au Vin Blanc — chicken cooked in Riesling wine with bacon mushrooms, onions carrots and peas — and petit filet mignon au poivre — a 6-ounce piece of tenderloin with potato au gratin, string beans and green peppercorn sauce.
The bistro offers hors d’oeuvres and appetizers for $6 to $16, including zucchini pancakes with dill yogurt sauce, escargots and grilled baby lamb chops.
Huve said the seafood selection, starting with Bluepoint oysters for $2, and meats and cheese offerings, starting at three slices for $12, pair well with the 35 wines available by the glass.
Aperitif, named for a drink traditionally taken before dinner in France to stimulate the appetite, sells salads for $8 to $16 and sandwiches for $12 to $19.
The entrée menu is headlined by pistachio-crusted rack of lamb with potato and Roquefort tart and spinach for $31, grilled sirloin steak and fries for $27 and hazelnut-crusted salmon with apple parsnip puree, spinach and horseradish sauce for $23.
The bar stretches behind rows of small circular tables and plush velvet chairs overlooking the sidewalk. Although Aperitif offers several beers and cocktails, Huve said it prides itself on an extensive, international wine list.
“It’s a very accessible wine list,” Huve said, saying all staff members were trained to introduce customers unfamiliar with wines. “Usually we ask what was the last bottle of wine you liked, then we give you a sample, and from your reaction we know what to offer.”
Aperitif, located at 213-41 39th Ave., opens for lunch at noon. The kitchen closes on weekdays at 10 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 p.m.
Huve said the bistro will soon serve Sunday brunch from 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. and hopes to host wine dinners about once a month. These would feature a four- or five-course meal with wine from one winery or one tradition.
“We get someone from the winery to present,” he said. “People love it because it allows you to learn about wine and have a good time.”
Aperitif’s upper floor is available for private parties and can accommodate up to 85 guests, Huve said.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle by e-mail at stran[email protected]nglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.