Veteran restaurateur and longtime Astoria resident Riccardo Dardha on Nov. 9 opened his first restaurant, Figlia, in the neighborhood.
Figlia, which means “daughter” in Italian, is located at 23-02 31 St. and offers a menu of neo-Neapolitan pizzas from a custom-built pizza oven, along with antipasti and homemade pastas.
The restaurant highlights local purveyors such as Astoria Seafood, International Meat Market, Murray’s Cheese and Pain d’Avignon in Long Island City, as well as Earth & Me, a zero-waste home and personal care care products store in Astoria and Long Island City.
Dardha says he is fortunate to have finally opened a restaurant in Astoria, a place he has called home for a while now and where he and his wife are raising their daughter — hence the restaurant’s name, Figlia.
“Having a restaurant and working in the city meant spending less time in Astoria, but my wife and I always tried to frequent local stores and support local businesses,” Dardha said. “We also got to appreciate and participate more in the caring, close-knit community we live in. It was only natural that my next project would be in Astoria.”
According to Dardha, this became a reality last year when he found the space on 23rd Avenue. Using the local purveyors he discovered by living in the neighborhood made the project a lot more meaningful.
“While under construction, I have had the chance to speak with many neighbors and passersby who seem eager and excited to experience our restaurant and have welcomed us with open arms,” Dardha said. “I am excited that my team and I will be able to offer a taste of our food along with warm hospitality to this welcoming neighborhood.”
Figlia’s 25-seat dining room is anchored by a large curved carrara marble-topped bar on one side, which seats eight people. The wood-fired pizza oven built by artisans of Fiero Group is in the rear. Built by hand, the oven bakes at 700 to 900 degrees, and its exterior is finished in muted tones. The walls are white with hunter green tiles around the kitchen in the back. The floors are white tile, and the tabletops, benches and chairs are made of wood. The airy space has high ceilings and large front windows that let in a lot of natural light. There will be an additional 10 seats outdoors.
Architects and designers Peter Storey and Eddie Blumer worked closely with Dardha while designing the space in order to find the right balance of understated and refined with the primary goal of centering the food as the focus of the experience. The materials used are timeless and familiar dark wood, ceramic tile and stone. Figlia was designed as a place where neighbors can feel comfortable stopping in for a quick pie and a glass of wine or a casual night out with friends.
Figlia’s menu includes pizzas that come with toppings such as Burrata & Pomodoro with burrata cheese, heirloom cherry tomatoes, garlic confit and oregano; Mortadella with pickled Fresno peppers, pistachio, fior di latte and grana padano; Maitake Mushrooms with mozzarella, caciocavallo, pickled shallots and thyme; Nduja & Burrata with crushed tomato, roasted onions, garlic and basil; Quattro Formaggi with mozzarella, grana, fontal (fontina-style cheese), gorgonzola and caramelized onions; Arugula & Speck with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and grana; and Classic Margherita with San Marzano tomatoes, Jersey Girl mozzarella and basil.
Dardha developed the menu and pizza dough with his longtime baker and chef de cuisine Ariel Villegas. Figlia’s neo-Neapolitan pizza marries Neapolitan and New York City styles with the dough undergoing fermentation for more than 48 hours and baking at around 750 degrees. The dough is a mix of two kinds of unbleached King Arthur flour, one of which is high in protein, which results in more flavor and a slightly chewy texture. The menu features meticulously sourced ingredients from local suppliers such as Astoria Seafood, as well as Jersey Girl Cheese, Niman Ranch meats and more.
Other menu highlights include antipasti such as Little Gem Caesar with radishes and grana padano; grilled octopus over herbed beans; and Polpette housemade meatballs. Housemade pastas are geared toward the fall and winter with hearty options like Radiatore Con Salsiccia with Niman Ranch Italian sausage, rapini pesto and pangrattato; Rigatoni Bolognese with a veal and pork ragu; and Pappardelle with braised leg of lamb, tomato and parmigiano, but there will also be classic Aglio e Olio and Amatriciana. For dessert, there will be housemade tiramisu and chocolate and hazelnut mousse cake.
A full bar program will feature cocktails, beer and a global wine list of small producer wines. Cocktails will play on classics with Italian twists like the Negroni Sbagliato with Campari, Carpano Antica and prosecco; Solerno Sidecar with whiskey, Solerno blood orange, citrus and bitters; Evening Vespers with Lillet Blanc, St. Germain, vodka and orange twist; along with classics like Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Bee’s Knees.
Dinner at Figlia is served Wednesday through Sunday. The restaurant is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m.; and Sunday from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.