Signaling LIC’s transition to a higher-key Manhattan-esque nightlife scene, trendy Shi serves up nightly DJ parties, stunning skyline views, and a lavishly elegant décor that packs the house with Long Island City’s most fashionable crowd. Dion reviewed Shi for the June issue of Ins & Outs Magazine, and was forced to enjoy sushi, sake, and dancing all while sipping his bottomless cucumber ginger martini. Poor baby! Read the review below:


4720 Center Blvd., LIC, 347.242.2448,

Though it’s situated across the East River, Shi Restaurant has an undeniably downtown Manhattan feel. Opened in September ‘08, this new eatery is a trendy, stylish, and surprisingly affordable addition to LIC’s dining scene.

Shi’s chic interior seems like something only a professional designer could have pulled off. A modern fireplace warms a hidden corner of the restaurant dubbed the lounge, perfect for a bottle of wine with friends or a first date. On Friday and Saturday nights hip young professionals pack the bar while a DJ spins from an ornate wood turntable overlooking the loft-like space. Come summertime, ask to be seated outside – Shi’s waterfront location provides unobstructed views of the midtown Manhattan skyline – and keep an eye out for Shi’s soon to be launched dim sum and mimosa weekend brunch.

You would never guess it by the crowd or feel, but Shi  is family owned, operated, and designed. The beautiful modern art was painted by, believe it or not, a cousin. The traditional menu is inspired by a small noodle shop the owners grew up in. The chandeliers and sleek bar don’t scream mom and pop at first, but with a careful look around you quickly discover that below the lacquer façade, Shi is a relaxed and homey restaurant with great food.

Shi’s Pan-Asian menu offers everything from Vietnamese soup bowls and Thai noodle dishes to a full sushi bar. Though many of the fried rice dishes are a bit heavy, the sushi is some of the freshest around. Try the wasabi roll with salmon and avocado topped with wasabi-soaked caviar. Pair this spicy roll with a reviving ginger mojito, one of Shi’s signature Asian-themed cocktails.  Lychee calamari is one of the more inventive dishes on the menu; tiny pieces of lychee are batter-fried then served with the crisp ringlets to put a delightful sweet Asian twist on this popular starter. The mixed ceviche is another crowd pleaser, featuring fresh tuna and yellowfin sashimi atop a light vegetable slaw. For dinner, try the sake infused cod. It is one of the more expensive dishes on the menu at $19, but well worth the price jump. The alcohol-rich sake breaks down the cod as it marinates, leaving a tender and buttery filet that is then steamed with ginger water and served on a bed of sautéed bok choy.

With appetizers starting at only $3 and large bowls of chicken udon for only $9, it’s a wonder Shi can maintain such a large and beautiful space. Because the hole-in-the-wall you got delivery from in college is almost just as expensive, Shi is the perfect place to grab an affordable weeknight dinner or enjoy a cocktail on the weekend.

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Dion’s review of El Boquerón- an old-school Spanish restaurant located in the heart of Astoria- was recently featured in the June issue of Ins & Outs Magazine. With a standout selection of traditional olive oil and garlic-rich foods, Dion was in allhis glory at this traditional Spanish eatery. Read the review below and be sure to pick up Ins & Outs Magazine in stores now!

31-01 34th Ave., Astoria, 718.956.0107,

At first glance, El Boquerón is seemingly out of place. Located off a busy street under the train tracks, from the outside, I was sure this small, unassuming restaurant would underwhelm. In a matter of minutes I learned why this Astoria-based eatery has endured as a neighborhood staple for over eight years. Devoted clientele return week after week, crossing through El Boquerón’s doors to a world of old school elegance and refinement.

Dining at El Boquerón is truly an intimate experience. Meticulous attention to detail – from pressed tablecloths to tuxedo-clad servers – is a much appreciated change from the communal tables and blasé service I’ve become accustomed to in many of Manhattan’s restaurants at a similar price point. Owners and brothers Miller and GonzaloBermeo will indulge and spoil you from the start. Convivial warmth is general practice at El Boquerón. At one point I noticed Miller congratulate a couple on their engagement with a free glass of champagne, while Gonzalo enthusiastically serenades each guest with the specials of the day. The Bermeo brothers’ dedication to hospitality is unwavering and instantly made me feel like a king.

El Boquerón offers small tapas to share, which I always prefer because the variety lets me get a real feel for the kitchen. As Gonzalo described the dishes one by one, I could feel his passion for the food. Sit back, relax, and try theGambas al Ajillo, or garlic shrimp. These tender, perfectly cooked shrimp come coated in a rich and velvety butter sauce, just right to start your meal. If you’re into them, sweetbreads are one of the strongest dishes on the menu. Fried until lightly crisp, these luscious creations are just salty enough to stimulate the palate before they melt in your mouth. The stuffed mushrooms with asparagus crema are a technical masterpiece. Delicate and delicious, these earthy bites are topped with fragile slices of jamón Serrano that take savory to the third dimension. Each mushroom is tender, moist, and flawless. Lingering in the dining room watching tapas trickle out of the kitchen is truly a European experience. Full and at ease, I finish my meal with a creamy mocha flan and cappuccino. Perfecto.

The love and care that goes into each dish makes El Boquerón a must. In this economy, it’s all about getting bang for your buck. If you’re going to spend the money and go out to eat, you want to have an experience. From my private corner table, I sipped my Sangria and couldn’t help but feel a certain dignity that is so often missing from the Manhattan dining scene. This is dining out, this is service at its best.

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Da Franco’s thin and crisp Napoletana-style pizzas are topped with mozzarella from owner Franco Spatola’s own cheese factory in Queens. Talk about locavore!

Dion’s review of Da Franco is in the latest issue of Ins & Outs Magazine, online and on newsstands now! You can also check out Da Franco’s traditional Italian cuisine on video at

92 21st St., Astoria, 718.267.0010,

Thin-crust pizza is king at da franco ristorante Italiano, which opened in May. A testament to pizza done right, Da Franco’s pies are crisp, flavorful, and near perfect. Owner Franco Spatola has been in the restaurant biz for years, and his expertise is apparent upon first sauce-filled bite. But I am one skeptical food critic, so I asked why the menu claims to use “fresh homemade mozzarella.” Surely the chefs aren’t making their own cheese, a laborious process that strikes me as impractical.

Wrong, Dion! Jack-of-all-trades Spatola owns a mozzarella factory out in Ridgewood. To taste the creamy, hot-off-the-press goodness, try the classic pizza margherita, a simple and delicate creation topped with velvety, light mozzarella. Another standout is the pizza alla modena, made with shaved parmesan and a delicate layer of prosciutto topped with peppery arugula. The hearty Italian goodness doesn’t stop at pizza. Da Franco offers a variety of classic Italian dishes, from chicken parmigiana to a fried seafood platter brimming with calamari, red mullet, and fresh sardines. I particularly enjoyed the involtini di pollo, boneless chicken breast stuffed with spinach, prosciutto, and fontina cheese. Hungry yet?

On another homemade note, on a tour of the kitchen, I learned that Da Franco’s signature tomato sauce is made-to-order from crushed tomatoes kept on ice right next to the giant cooking range. Even some of the best restaurants pre-cook their sauce to save time, but not Da Franco. Try the rigatoni alla siciliana and you’ll learn how cooking with both fresh pasta and fresh sauce can elevate a simple dish to new levels. Tender noodles in a substantial tomato and eggplant reduction, Da Franco’s rigatoni are the perfect vehicle to enjoy every drop of the equally outstanding sauce. With quality ingredients and over 30 types of pizza to boot, Da Franco’s food is what some might call “magnifico.” I just call it delicious. To catch an inside glimpse of Da Franco, visit

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Dion’s review of Ihawan Restaurant was recently published in the Fall/Winter issue of Ins&Outs Magazine. Read the review below, and check out the full feature in the dining section of Ins&Outs Magazine, on newsstands now!

                                                       10 5th Ave., LIC, 718.937.7373,

Ihawan2 is the latest addition to long island City’s ever-growing dining scene, following on the heels of the original Ihawan in Woodside. With killer barbeque options including chicken, savory pork, and sizzling steak, it’s no wonder regulars return week after week. But though best known for its barbeque, Ihawan2 is no one-trick pony. Under Ihawan2’s BBQ coating lies a world of sushi, inventive fusion dishes, and traditional Filipino fare.

The oxtail with peanut sauce is a luxurious meat dish so tender you won’t even think about picking up that knife. A side of garlic fried rice is the perfect complement to this hearty stew, a traditional Filipino dish prepared at its best. (Garlic is one of the main flavor components of Filipino cuisine.) Endowing sushi with a Filipino accent, the restaurant has created a special combination roll featuring crisp, dried garlic chips. And the inventive addition of garlic’s tang upgraded my fresh Toro roll to the next level of culinary delight. Garlic is so the new wasabi.

Oh, but you’re not done there. On a warm day, stop by Ihawan2 for an avocado con hielo to go. The creamy frozen drink – a Filipino interpretation of a milkshake – provides the perfect sip as you mosey down to the water to enjoy LIC’s panoramic view. With a touch of avocado for creaminess (yes – avocado in a drink!) it’s a velvety and cooling refresher without all the guilt you associate with its ice-cream-based American cousin. And perhaps the highlight of our meal, Ihawan2’s quenching melon juice, can’t be missed. The fresh-pressed juice is simple, lightly sweet, and has little cantaloupe pieces floating in it. At just $2.50 a glass, it’s a fun and tasty conversation starter, a perfect complement to Ihawan2’s inventive, affordable, and light-hearted spirit.


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Dion’s review of Stamatis- a classic Greek taverna and Astoria institution- was recently published in the Spring ’09 issue of Ins & Outs Magazine. Dion was right at home with Stamatis’ classic Greek cooking, and this restaurant is well worth the trip East. Read the review below and be sure to pick up Ins & Outs Magazine in stores now!

3114 Broadway, Astoria | 718-204-8964

Classic Greek cuisine is founded on the bold flavors of tangy yogurt, spicy garlic, and a prominent zing of lemon on almost everything. Growing up Greek, the strong flavors and textures I have come to expect in traditional cooking seem extreme when compared to the Manhattan’s watered-down Greek endeavors. Behold Stamatis. This Astoria gem serves up traditional Greek fare at its finest, from fresh roasted snapper to lamb falling off the bone.

The Stamatis experience begins in the kitchen, literally. As you enter the restaurant, the open-air kitchen welcomes you to browse a large display case featuring the homemade specials of the day. Yemista, or fresh stuffed tomatoes, immediately catch my eye. Rice and meat abound inside these tender vegetable shells, and with a strong nutmeg flavor, this dish is as real as it gets. Traditional to Cypriot cuisine, these unique spices have become a true symbol of authentic Greek fare.

Try the Kolikithakia, crisp fried zucchini served with a classic garlic dip called skordalia. The paper-thin zucchini slices are lightly breaded and quick-fried, achieving a thin crunch that is chip-like and delicious.

Another favorite is the house-made tzatziki. Stamatis’s version of this creamy yogurt sauce is just garlicky enough to peak the appetite and made with fresh dill to help balance any dish. Eat tzatziki as an accompaniment to chicken or fish, or try it with pita bread as a scrumptious dip. Thicker than its American cousin, Greek yogurt maintains its texture when blended or mixed with other ingredients. Stamatis’s tzatziki is some of the best I’ve had, transporting me to mthe Greek Isles with a single dollop.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my snapper stuffed with buttery roasted fennel, a seasonally-appropriate vegetable that is tastiest in fall. The ingredient-conscious chefs will guide and shape your Stamatis experience, and are sure to thrill even the most tenured foodie. Aware of taste, freshness, and traditional flavors, Stamatis provides an authentic taste of Greece right here in New York City.

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foar01_michael by eater_ny.

Dion recently reported on renowned Chef Micheal Psilakis for Greek Reporter Magazine. Psilakis is a native Long Islander whose tribute to haute Greek cuisine hit the NY dining scene in 2007 with the opening of Anthos  restaurant in Midtown. His creative take on traditional dishes has made him the face of Greek cooking for our generation. Psilakis has won numerous awards for his deconstructed creations, and as a result his restaurants are some of the most booked in New York City.  Check out the full review here:

  Chef Psilakis Feature Article

Anthos by Eating In Translation.

Crispy sweetbreads at Kefi, Upper West Side, New York by Eating In Translation.

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Dion recently reviewed this tart and well-balanced red for for a feature on This label is so uniquely light and airy that you can see right through it’s translucent cranberry color in the image below. Read the full article here:

Vigna Di Terre Rosse Review

Days of wine and salad by adactio.

 Red Wine by pappajohn1969.

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Falafel from Pita+ by IronStef.

Dion did some digging for to find you the best falafel in New York. Alan’s super-busy lunch cart is  a lower Manhattan institution. Frequently visited by business men in-the-know, Alan serves up some of the most affordable and delicious falafel in the city.  Read the full article below, and be sure to visit Alan the next time you head downtown:

 The Long Line to Falafel

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Falafel King Falafel by Pabo76.

Falafel meal by IronStef.

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