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Review: Agnanti

Posted by gambit50 on May 2, 2008

Agnanti, Astoria, Queens, NY

Located quite far off the beaten path of the N/R subway line, down by the park in the famously Greek neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. Agnanti was once the highest rated Greek restaurant in NYC according to the Zagat guide. This was before the haute Greek movement of the recent past, nevertheless, it outscored all competition in Manhattan, Brooklyn and in its own neighborhood which meant something back then.

This rating led me to believe that I should have a very good Greek meal if I visited, at the least. Perhaps it would exceed that. I had passed by before, randomly, and it had been closed. Most of the Greek food in Astoria is mediocre, never mind that there is real Greek ownership. So, Agnanti would be my Greek fix if it happened to be convenient. I am not often in the neighborhood and it is not a quick hop from Manhattan.

But it happened. Someone planned a night out in Astoria and Agnanti it would be.

It was a Saturday night during the summer that this occurred. There is outdoor seating and the place was jammed. The bridge and tunnel Greeks were there in droves, showing off. Actually, they don’t even go into Manhattan, they stay in Queens so B&T might be the wrong term but I cannot think of another. The hostess was a typically useless, second generation young Greek girl. Reservations? Yes, but that did not seem to matter much plus the fact that half of our party was very late, I would say 30 minutes. Obviously, this was far too much for her to handle. Even after everyone was present, we waited an eternity, at least it felt like one. And I would say others who came afterward and were on standby get seated first. It pays to be a local koubaro, I guess.

I had probably been outside, waiting, being angry with the rest of my party and the staff and completely bored since there are only residential homes around it for quite some distance. YES, we are finally accepted! How long? I am sure over an hour but by how much? It could have been a bit or a yard.

We sat inside which has the bonus of no smoking because many Greeks smoke and that alone more than cancels out the pleasant outdoor seating. The restaurant has a plain interior and exterior in the taverna style. Wood floors, chairs, etc. Probably a few pictures of Mary on the wall, I cannot remember. I am fine with all of this except that the chairs were definitely uncomfortable. After waiting that long, you notice. No worries, I am here to eat, I though, and was not expecting luxury and am able to separate food from poor service and other factors.

Unfortunately, (that gives it away, doesn’t it?) the Agnanti experience did not improve. The menu is extensive in its coverage of traditional Greek cuisine. Though we had an array of dishes at the table, there are many more. I cannot remember everything we had but I will note on the few I do recall.

I had the whole roasted fish(red snapper, I believe). It was mushy and lacking flavor. At best a fish of medium quality and the preparation was poor. No amount of extra lemon, salt or anything else could save it. The fried baccalao was certainly not very good, not terrible, just something that one should not bother to go out to have. My father makes the best I have had(no, really, so far anyhow) and while I have never had a fantastic version in a restaurant, I expected better than slightly above complete drek. Again, typical Astoria. Oh, everyone is Greek so the Greek food is great. No, it isn’t.

Usually, I have had one or two things at other places in the neighborhood that are at least good. Let’s see, the Greek sausages with orange were OK but that is hard to screw up. The saganaki(baked cheese) was again, prepared poorly. My final note since I can remember no more specific dishes is that some food came out barely warmed. Another diner’s lamb chops were such a dish. Basically, the preparation and the timing of the dishes being served were terrible. Perhaps, the service should be blamed more than the kitchen. Needless to say, there was no dessert for anyone. I did not pay and did not see the bill but the prices are reasonable though probably about standard for Astoria.

People say that you cannot judge a place on one meal because it might be an off meal or off night or whatever. I give leeway to standards since the previously mentioned reasons occur to even great places. There is always the potential for variation. However, when I am served a meal that is so far below standards and expectations, I will not go back again. Every time “another chance” is given, it is just another waste of money. Forget Agnanti unless you need to be “seen” by the Astoria Greeks.

NTG

Summary: A busy, typical Greek taverna in Astoria. Food and service range from horrendous to acceptable. It is supposed to be a cut above its competitors in the neighborhood, I found it to be worse, possibly due to their inability or care to keep a standard during busy periods. Do not waste your time making the journey and spend your money elsewhere. Last visit, Summer, 2006

Ratings:

Food – 76

Vibe – 72

Service – 65

Value – 74

Score – 71

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