Tuscan Hills
115-20 Queens Blvd (77th Ave), Forest Hills

I tend to be critical of Italian restaurants, but there is nothing to dislike about Tuscan Hills, it’s a real winner. It has a genuine neighborhood feel, with a friendly, accommodating owner. It’s not one of these big bustling type places that churns out the same tired dishes, which you often see in Queens. Tuscan Hills feels like a trattoria in Tuscany. It’s the right size, has brick walls, a pizza oven and a very interesting menu. Spud’s brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Patricia, took us here and we could not have been happier. The only thing that would have made the experience better, was to have a second stomach, because I wanted to eat all of each dish I tried!

The app of artichoke hearts was creamy and delicious with a topping of soft bread crumbs. The other app was braised beans and sausage, that complemented each other well, yielding a hearty texture and flavor. Spud had a delicious homemade pasta with a wild boar ragu and olives. It was so meaty and the olives added a great salty/briny flavor. Jim had baccala with artichokes, which was less salty and much better than baccala I’ve had in the past. Patricia had homemade fettuccine with shrimp. The pasta ribbons were so soft and fresh, that it took all of my restraint not to reach over and attack her dish. My dish, the Cacciucco alla Livornese, is the restaurant’s signature and it was amazing. The presentation was a surprise, it comes out in this huge bread dome (see photos), that is sliced open at the table, revealing a large pile of succulent seafood: shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari, and fish. It is similar to a cioppino or a frutti di mare, but the genius is that the bread bowl is a thin dough pizza crust! So you can dip and dip and not get full of bread for a long time.

As you can tell, I really liked Tuscan Hills, and not because it was a free meal – although that always helps =). Five out of the six things we ordered were dishes or preparations that I had never seen before, and the sixth, was fresh pasta that was heavenly. You just don’t find this at neighborhood Italian restaurants. Plus, I almost forgot, that the tartufo was also probably the best I have had, because it wasn’t rock solid, and it had added sauce and powered cocoa that made it into a complete and delicious dessert.

So check out Tuscan Hills in Forest Hills and hopefully you will also leave with a happy belly.