As I write this, I’m still full from the night before.
Along with the startling realization that I am, in fact, capable of staying satiated for more than 10 hours is an even happier discovery — L&B Spumoni Gardens is aces at turning out a lot more than crusty edged squares of pizza and technicolor cups of molded ice cream. In fact, they produce some of the best ‘beyond chicken parmigiana’ Italian I’ve eaten in recent memory.
Bypassing L&B’s bustling outdoor garden for the jam-packed dining room is something I’ve only attempted once — stronger women than me have given up on waiting when the promise of instant gratification at the takeaway pizza counter is only a few steps away. So being invited to a 9pm seating at the Chef’s Table with good friends of the owners was an opportunity I jumped on — the chance to breeze past the clamoring crowd hoping the hostess would call their name next.
From that point on, we never so much as glanced at a menu. For the next four hours, carafes of red wine and plates of fat, lemon juice and chive-topped raw oysters were set down amongst much fanfare and cheek kisses; platters of buttery and breadcrumbed baked clams, exemplary roasted artichokes, mozzarella in corrozza, and gigantic fried shrimp with spicy marinara were quickly replaced and replenished. A dish of flaky white fish with white wine and mushrooms was delivered with a wink and a smile; a surprise from the kitchen. A groaning tower of garlicky linguine and clams arrived topped with two split and stuffed whole lobsters. For a girl that grew up wishing she was Italian if only for the Feast of the Seven Fishes, it was an under-the-sea dream come true.
We were too stuffed to even contemplate a proffered meat course, but happily attacked the digestivo — icy mounds of anise sorbet with candied lemon zest. We sipped cappuccinos and espressos as we diligently dug our way into the certifiable funhouse of a dessert — a massive snowball of whipped cream-topped tartufo flanked by slabs of tiramisu and ringed with six cone-headed boulders of ice cream. Somehow, we managed to find a sliver of stomach space to store powder-sugared planks of zeppole-style fried platanos — an inspired confection worth trying ourselves at home.
A few jelly-glass sized shots later (Sambuca, to soothe our groaning bellies), it was time to head home and straight into a pair of elastic-banded pajamas — which remained our uniform until we sat at the computer the next morning, attempting to conjure memories of the glorious gluttony the evening before.
Come to think of it, better grab a few fried shrimp and maybe a fork or two of that leftover linguine in the fridge.
2725 86th St, (718) 372-8400. Chefs Table $40-$60p: priceless if attended with friends of the owners.