Serving classic Mediterranean dishes in an elegantly remodeled space
There can never be too many Italian restaurants in town. Madonia, on Long Ridge Road, offers yet another pleasant setting to a loyal following. Its Mediterranean menu—a composite of classic specialties from the Calabria region of Italy; contemporary seafood platters; and assorted dishes from Spain, Portugal and France—sets it apart.
When we arrived there was a jazz combo playing in the bar area. We sat in one of the interior dining rooms, so the music was soft and pleasant. There are plenty of staff on hand—waiters, a captain and busboys—so you can be assured that you will be seated promptly and have your order taken quickly.
photograph by gus cantavero
We ordered an inexpensive bottle of Prosecco, and despite the modest price tag it came housed in a silver bucket filled with ice and was decanted as if it were Cristal. A nice touch.
While we waited for our dishes, we looked around and were amused by the great range of types. Some diners brought young children for a birthday party; others were on a romantic date. One table of four hungry men wore jeans and work shirts and looked like they had just come off a job site. Another table had elegant older diners in dresses and sports jackets. This eclectic mix gave the place a cozy neighborhood feel.
The first dish out of the kitchen was a lobster BLT salad. We have seen this dish on a few other menus, but Madonia’s was a standout. Its generous portion size (it could have been a main course) and the perfectly cooked lobster, which tasted freshly poached in wine, were wonderful. The bacon was nicely crisp and added a porcine tang to the oceanic bliss of the lobster.
Slightly less successful was a warm brie and roasted pear Napoleon. The cooked pear and melting Brie were tasty, but these were housed in a small pastry boat that did not highlight the dish, and the hazelnut vinaigrette was lost on our palate.
A nice option at Madonia are the “small plates,” smaller portions offered for existing items on the menu, a good choice for modest appetites or diners wishing to try many dishes. We chose this option with a few pasta dishes, and still the half-portions were hearty. The homemade gnocchi Caprese was delicious, toothsome and soft enough to soak up the homemade marinara sauce.
When the entrees arrived, we were served another stand-out winner: a lobster paella for two that could have fed four people. Again, more marvelous lobster. Mixed into the saffron-scented rice, which had a healthy splash of white wine, were lovely pieces of chorizo, shrimp, mussels and bell peppers.
The chicken scaloppine was a good, workmanlike rendition of a classic dish, though it didn’t quite intrigue, but the Angry Lobster, a whole large crustacean dripping with a spicy fra diavolo sauce, was as brilliant as the chicken was reserved. One caveat is that the Angry Lobster has to be one of the messiest dishes in creation to eat. Take my advice and tuck a napkin into your shirt collar.
It would seem Madonia’s strength is its seafood, but do not shy away from its meaty offerings. The restaurant does a very nice job with steaks, especially the rib-eye, which was cooked precisely as specified and sizzling hot. Similarly, the osso buco was perfectly fork tender.
After so much hearty fare, you will be forgiven if you skip dessert, which consisted of cheesecake, chocolate lava cake and an assortment of gelati.
Would we go back to Madonia? Absolutely! But we would be selective with what we ordered. Check it out. It is a fun, easy-going place with very good food and an eager waitstaff.
Try a recipe from Madonia
1297 Long Ridge Road
Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; 5–10 p.m.
Sun. 11 a.m.–3 p.m.