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Columns September 17, 2015  RSS feed

Victoria's Secrets

New Year begins with great food and great togetherness
VICTORIA SCHNEPS-YUNIS
tweet me @vschneps

Holiday time has blessedly always been about family togetherness. This year, the beginning of the New Year celebration of Rosh Hashanah allowed me to share it with my Yunis and Schneps families and sneak in a friends gathering at a new restaurant before the holiday began.

Rosh Hashanah begins the celebration of the Jewish New Year – 5766 – and it is said that our prayers on this holiday set our fate as it is written in the Book of Life, and on Yom Kippur, eight days later, the Book is sealed. We pray fervently and wish ourselves, our loved ones and our nation a year that brings good health, happiness, prosperity, peace and fulfillment – all truly the best that we can hope for. It is a message we send and a time for us to gather as a family surrounded by the people we love.

Next week is the somber Yom Kippur holiday when I will fast and spend a good part of the day in the synagogue asking forgiveness of my sins. I ask God to write me in the Book of Life as it closes as sundown approaches.


The family and friends gathering at my daughter Samantha’s house The family and friends gathering at my daughter Samantha’s house Before the holiday, on Saturday night, my son Josh was opening his first Night Market on the ‘back lot’ of the kaufman astoria studios in Astoria. It’s a block long space that we used last year on Sundays. This features our Beer and Wine Garden with music and an eclectic mix of food and flea vendors.

Although the weather report was for rain, my friends and I decided to go anyway. As we drove through blankets of rain and got closer to Astoria, there was only a drizzle on our windshield. But, Josh had decided to make a rain call to close and reopen next Saturday night.

So, our group of four decided to go to the three-month-old Maiella on Center Boulevard in Long island City created by the respected Astoria chef/restaurateur rocco sacramone. We drove up to the cavernous waterfront neighborhood and we were grateful to see a valet service for our car even though there was a fee of $7.


Cousin Ben holding up Hudson, with Addy at the Broner New Year’s party Cousin Ben holding up Hudson, with Addy at the Broner New Year’s party The restaurant had been created by a team of three owners in a space in a new building facing the iconic Pepsi sign on the waterfront.

On entering the restaurant, there is a large bar that was packed two deep with people and many small tables allowing people to eat and drink in that space. We took two steps down and were led to a space in the rear with about six tables but I didn’t want to be seated there. I wanted to sit near the window to see the Pepsi sign and the glistening skyline of Manhattan across the East River. The hostess did honor our request and gave us a table mid-main room. It gave me a good view to take in the warm Tuscan feel of the space with an open oven at one end that made tasty, crispy Italianstyle flatbreads and pizzas that are served at the table.


Rachael at Maiella in LIC enjoying her classical chicken parmigiana Rachael at Maiella in LIC enjoying her classical chicken parmigiana The lighting is warm and dim, and the sound level high, but we could hear each other speak as we huddled closer. There are outdoor tables but because of the rain, that area was closed. There are two rooms on the sides of the main dining area that would be perfect for small private parties.

The well placed tables are covered with paper over white linen tablecloths and during dinner the waiter covered our spills to make our table clean. I asked the waiter what Rocco considers his signature dishes. To my delight, one was the Burrata, a stuffed, creamy mozzarella with sundried tomato wrapped in prosciutto. It’s a dish that melts in my mouth and my favorite. We also shared Polpette di Cinghiale, wild boar meatballs in a light mushroom sauce and the seasonal fig salad with a delicate oil dressing.

I chose my favorite fish, the whole branzino grilled with an oil, lemon and butter sauce. I usually fillet it myself but I did a poor job and too many bones were left. Next time, I will have the kitchen do it. My guests had their favorite swordfish, Eggplant Parmesan and Chicken Parmesan and enjoyed them. The waiter recommended the risotto, a house specialty, but we wanted a half portion and they couldn’t accommodate that on the busy Saturday night. There are nine unique pizzas served and I would try that on my next visit.

We concluded with a watermelon and mango sherbet and a Tartufo, a sweet way to end a delicious meal.

The service was friendly and efficient, with enough staff to make sure our water glasses were regularly refilled and our needs met. Try it. You too will love it! It’s at 4610 Center Boulevard in Long Island City; 718-606-1770.

With the holiday beginning at sundown, I enjoyed a traditional holiday meal artfully prepared by my stepdaughter Mimi broner. I made a toast to her dad, my late husband stu, saying, with all my heart, her dad would be so proud of her gathering all my children and hers to share the holidays. It made us both cry!

Then we dug into a lavish dinner offering matzoh ball soup, noodle pudding, brisket, chicken and a bravado closing of 10 desserts. A perfect night!

For me, it was bittersweet to attend the Monday morning services for Rosh Hashanah. I sat alone but I felt the memories of past holidays from my childhood to today. My children rarely want to attend but I’m grateful they do bring their kids in the afternoon for the “Children and their Family” service.

It was a joyous hour filled with songs and the blowing of the shofar, a ram’s horn that calls everyone to prayer, and the children got the chance to kiss the holy Torah as the rabbi walked around the aisles carrying it.

We all left together for a banquet, a gluttonous, delicious dinner at my daughter samantha’s home. With over 30 friends and family from 13 weeks to 90 years old, we all relished being together. A powerful way to start the New Year. Happy New Year to all!