Benjamin Haimoff has been on a journey with his restaurant. After originally opening Pier 26 in August of last year, he was forced to close down after just four months despite great reviews.
An upscale (no pun intended) fish restaurant was something that Queens didn’t have. In general, high-end dairy places are hard to come by in the kosher restaurant industry. But Haimoff wanted to bring a unique option to the market. Unfortunately, it seemed that the price point just wasn’t what the community was looking for in a dairy restaurant.
After closing the original Pier 26, Haimoff decided that the concept wasn’t at fault and that he should be able to make it work as long as he could keep the prices more moderate. This led to him reopening, but rebranding the place as Trattoria by Pier 26.
Trattoria resembles its predecessor in a few ways, but there are some key differences. The menu features a bevy of fish options and homemade pasta, while the dining room and bar are surely nice enough to be rented out for a nice event like a sheva bracha.
As for changes, the most expensive items (truffles and caviar) are things of the past, and the menu is scaled down and reduced in price (at least 30%). Haimoff believes that those changes are much more in line with the wants and needs of the customer base.
When I was invited to Trattoria, I noticed that the ambiance was certainly of a noticeably higher quality than most restaurants with similar price points. White tablecloths and a polished bar —Trattoria’s bar includes a fairly extensive wine list and a menu of specialty cocktails—were great features that accompanied the section with floor-to-ceiling windows.
While the menu features many options to start off your meal, the must-have item is the Fish Tacos. Most fish tacos are more of a tempura-style fry, but these are actually breaded with house-made bread crumbs. Each taco features two hearty fish strips that are accompanied by a slaw, some pico di gallo, and chipotle sauce. The trio of soft tacos comes beautifully plated with dollops of a basil aioli and wedges of fresh limes in case you are looking for some added punch.
If you are going with a larger group of people and are looking for a great appetizer to share, I’d recommend getting the Pesto Margherita Pizza. This 12-inch pie is wonderfully crispy, as the pizza is a Neapolitan style with a very thin crust. The fresh mozzarella is placed on top of the crust, while the pesto and plum tomato sauces are used as striking contrasting colors on top. The flavors really come together nicely to give you an interesting take on something as basic as pizza, but in such a way that matches the elevated dining experience.
As mentioned before, there are plenty of options for main courses. With all the different fish available, my choice would be the Filet Branzino. Served with two side dishes of your choice, this delicious piece of fish is cooked in a creamy tomato sauce with cilantro, onions, roasted red peppers, black olives and cherry tomatoes. The rich sauce has a delicious flavor that highlights the differences in using actual dairy as opposed to a substitute that would be needed at a meat restaurant. The combination of vegetables works well as to balance the plate and make a well-composed entree.
Currently, the dessert menu at Trattoria is fairly pedestrian. It’s something that Haimoff is looking to improve as he knows that one of the most sought-after sections of any dairy restaurant’s menu is the desserts. That said, they already have a Crème Brûlée that is truly delightful. The cream has the desired depth that you’re looking for and the caramelized sugar on top adds a great crisp to create that perfect texture and mouthfeel.
So if you’re in the group of diners who are usually skeptical of paying top-tier prices for a dairy restaurant, you’re in luck. At Trattoria, you’ll find a mixture of deluxe ambiance and reasonable prices. Hopefully for Haimoff, that combination yields the sweet spot.
Trattoria by Pier 26
Dairy – Pescatarian – Waiter Service
Sunday-Thursday: 4-11 p.m.
Saturday: 1 hour after Shabbat-midnight
69-26 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11367
Vaad Harabonim of Queens (VHQ)
Nati Burnside is a freelance writer living in Fair Lawn and is a man of many interests. He can be reached at [email protected].