When Alberto Cadolini opened Concettina Italian Restaurant in Whitestone, he knew exactly the kind of eatery he wanted to have.
“I made the place with meals that I could eat,” said Alberto. “I’m using the best possible ingredients I could find to make the real Italian food.”
Serving high-quality food at Concettina, located at 160-24 Willets Point Blvd., is a high priority for Alberto, who goes grocery shopping every morning for the seafood, meat and produce used in the dishes. When QNS visited the restaurant, Alberto and Mary were getting ready to go grocery shopping for the day.
The restaurateur said that he hand picks ingredients that are as authentic to his home country of Italy as he can get, which include Rummo pasta, Leonardo tomatoes from North Shore Farms and pure olive oil. If he is not able to find ingredients that he deems acceptable, he will not serve it at the restaurant.
“I’d rather close than serve something bad,” said Alberto, who is in charge of day-to-day operations and food prep at the restaurant.
Concettina has been opened since July of this year and Mary describes how she and her husband got their restaurant as “kismet.” Before they owned it, the restaurant used to be a Greek and Mediterranean place that they had frequented for 10 years.
“We had always wanted a restaurant to serve my husband’s southern Italian cuisine,” said Mary. “We always looked for a restaurant that served that kind of food in Whitestone, but could never find it.”
Mary recalled that she and Alberto were out to dinner one night and on a whim, asked the owners if they were selling the business. They informed the couple that they were selling and the Cadolinis decided to buy the place and establish a restaurant of their own. They shared that business has been great so far and they have been able to fill all 55 restaurant seats every weekend.
Last weekend, Alberto said they actually had to turn customers away since they were at capacity.
Alberto came to New York from Sorrento, Naples, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast in 1992 and has lived in Whitestone for over 20 years. Most of the food served at Concettina is based on recipes from his mother Concetta, who is also the restaurant’s namesake. But he said they also serve Italian-American favorites like chicken parmigiana, penne alla vodka and event fettuccine alfredo upon request.
Concettina’s menu is seafood-heavy in the true spirit of the Amalfi Coast. Options include antipasti like calamari and tuna tartare, black tagliolini, which is a squid ink pasta served with shrimp in tomato sauce and a whole grilled branzino called branzino alla griglia. Other popular items include the gnocchi Sorrentina in a tomato sauce with mozzarella cheese and ricotta enriched house-made cavatelli with broccoli rabe and sausage in a light olive oil and garlic sauce.
In 2009, Alberto’s mom gained recognition for her food from celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito, who wrote a cookbook called “Now Eat This Italian!: Favorite Dishes from the Real Mamas of Italy—All Under 350 Calories.” DiSpirito visited Concetta in Sorrento and featured seven of her recipes in the book, including red peppers stuffed with three cheeses, tomatoes, eggplant and spaghetti, which is sometimes served as a special in the restaurant.
Though Concettina is the first restaurant the husband and wife team have owned together, they are not newcomers to the business. Mary has been a union waitress at the Plaza Hotel and Alberto worked at Roc Restaurant, which his brother owned in Tribeca for 17 years.
When the restaurant’s lease expired, Rocco moved to Kentucky and opened up the restaurant in Louisville. The Cadolinis said that they also served Concetta’s southern Italian fare during Alberto’s years at Roc.
Concettina is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. They are closed on Mondays. Check out the restaurant’s menu at concettinarestaurant.com or find them on Facebook and Instagram. For more information call 718-281-4210 or email ConcettinaRistorante@gmail.com.