Few sporting events transcend the actual athletic competition itself. Those that do — such as the Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Tour de France — are forever embedded into the popular culture. The US Open Tennis Tournament also deserves such a lofty status. The largest annual sporting event in the world, the US Open attracts more than 700,000 fans from around the world each year. Held at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, a section of Queens, NY, this year's action scheduled from Aug. 26 to Sept. 9 is sure to rank among the sports world's finest moments.
Tennis enthusiasts who desire to indulge themselves with a luxurious taste of the Big Apple often opt to dine at well-known restaurants in Manhattan, which is always a delectable experience. After all, many of the world's renowned chefs can be found at famed restaurants throughout the city. However, the experienced US Open tennis fan knows that they need not travel back into Manhattan in order to sample gourmet fare at its finest.
Trattoria L'incontro, not far from the site of the US Open, is well known by locals as one of the finest restaurants in Queens. It features high ceilings, hand-painted murals and an open brick oven in the dining room. The cuisine is a combination of traditional classics and innovative fare. "All of the dishes are prepared with an emphasis on using only the freshest, prime ingredients, keeping the integrity of traditional dishes while incorporating a new style, with the focus always on taste," according to Chef Rocco Sacramone, owner of Trattoria L'incontro.
Born in Orsonga, a small town in Abruzzo, Italy, Sacramone came to the United States in 1970. At age 14 he worked after school as a dishwasher at an Italian restaurant which was the beginning of his culinary journey. Wishing to own his own business, in 1987 he opened the Pizza Palace on 30th Avenue in Astoria, a section of Queens. Several years later, next door to his pizzeria, he opened Rocco’s, a small restaurant with about 30 seats. Word-of-mouth spread and his popularity grew. Wanting to expand his restaurant and his menu with new more exciting creations, he opened Trattoria L’incontro in 1999.
Lunchtime’s bright and airy feel is enhanced by the restaurant’s French doors which are left wide open. During the evenings the bright lights of this bustling trattoria give way to a soft candle-lit room that affords a romantic air, even with a full house and the hustle of waiters and bus boys. In fact, many proposals take place there. Reservations are a must at night and appetizers are important to stimulate one's appetite. From a very tender smoky grilled octopus or one of the chef’s specials such as a thinly sliced seared blue marlin prepared with a blend of spices and served with a persimmon coulis, it’s a great way to begin your dining experience.
Homemade pastas are always a favorite with tennis fans. Trattoria L’incontro’s signature dish is Mezza Luna Ravioli: pasta stuffed with mascarpone cheese and pesto, served with an asparagus, brandy and walnut sauce. Traditional pasta dishes such as homemade spaghetti with perfectly seasoned sauce and meatballs are always available. For those seeking something a bit different, the chef will always have a surprise on hand from a Beef Cheek Stew to seasonal game or Orata al Sale — Mediterranean Sea bass prepared with special spices, encrusted in sea salt and cooked in the wood-fired brick oven.
Tagliarini Pomodoro, a simple combination of delicate homemade pasta a tiny bit wider than angel hair with fresh tomatoes and basil offers a burst of fresh flavors that is sure to satisfy the most discerning tastes. Zuppa di Pesce features homemade tagliarini with clams, mussels, shrimp and monk fish served in a savory, light tomato sauce. Don't miss the Tonno Alla Griglia, grilled yellowfin tuna marinated in soy sauce, pignoli nuts and honey. A variety of individual pizzas are available from the brick oven, including pizza stuffed with chocolate.
In order to accommodate his guests, Sacramone expanded his 90-seat restaurant to 125 and enlarged his kitchen. His philosophy of creating a comfortable kitchen is simple: he wouldn’t want anyone to work in a kitchen that he himself would not want to work in. There is also a private room which will seat a party of 35 for a small private affair or business meeting.
The biggest expansion came with the opening of the first wine bar in Queens, Vino di Vino, which is located on Ditmars Boulevard and can be accessed through the restaurant as well as the street. Vino di Vino serves as a place to unwind and relax.
The US Open is a must see event for anyone who considers themselves a sports fan. It combines the best that New York City has to offer and affords tourists the opportunity to catch an up-close-and-personal glimpse of their favorite players, either during a day or night match. However, no trip to the US Open is complete without experiencing the delectable dining at Trattoria L'incontro.