Thursday, May 23, 2019


You couldn’t ask for better weather on Saturday, May 18, the day that Chillato gelateria chose to celebrate its ribbon cutting Grand Opening.   The only “pouring” was those people that couldn’t wait for the actual celebration.  Owners Maria Chee, John Zefi, Tony Lui and Linda Lui open the doors too soon, customers ignoring the celebratory balloons. 

The counters began to fill with friends, family and those who got the message about being able to sample the gelato, a 10% weekend discount and free raffle tickets that would win a free pint of anyone of the freshly made gelatos or sorbets.  There were certainly enough to choose from including a few new creations.  

In addition sample cups were being passed out by their friendly staff.  In Italy one might have a breakfast treat of a brioche with gelato sandwiched in.  Maria and Tony decided to acquaint the public to the same.  Why not? If it were coffee gelato, you would be having an equivalent of iced coffee and cake…so to speak. 
Photo op as the invited attendees made their way to the bottom of the entrance steps to pose and snip.  Aside from the four owners, Assemblymember Edward Braunstein, Senator John Lui, Greater Flushing Executive Director John Cloe, and Whitestone Merchants Association board members, Blanca Rodriguez, Nicholas Aragonesi and George Isaakidis filled the lower steps while members of the owners’ family filled the top ones.  

After the ribbon was cut, the speeches erupted. John Lui said, “What a great business Chillato is! It’s about making people happy.  I think there’s going to be a lot of happiness emanating from this corner of 154th and 17th Avenue.  I intend to be a regular customer. This is certainly something we need in the neighborhood.”

“Thank you for inviting me today,” said Braunstein. “This is a great occasion. It’s good to see small businesses opening in our community as well as the Whitestone Merchants Association.  The small business is the backbone of our community.”

Next up was Aragonesi.  “We want to congratulate you on your Grand Opening. Thank you for becoming a member of the association. If you need us we’re always here for you.”

Maria made the last speech thanking everyone for their support.  “We could not have found a better neighborhood to open a gelateria. I plan to stay here forever!”  Marie promised to keep surprising customers with new flavors.
Back inside more tasting of donuts and brioche with gelato.  Aside from the owners, four other employees were needed to happily please the party.  Constant purchasing kept Chillato quite busy finding out that S’mores, Deep Dark Chocolate and Sugar Rush were even more popular than the Almond Roca, Ferraro Rocher and Nocciola (Hazelnut). 
A few hours later, the horde thinned out.  But alas, apparently someone let the cat out of the bag and the members of Christy’s Gymnastic Team stormed in with their coaches.  Who spilled the beans? Is it a coincidence that Maria’s daughters 10 year old Madelyn Chee-Zefi and 13-year-old Chloe are members of the team?

Just in case you didn’t get the info, Chillato is located at 17-16 154th Street.  Phone number: 718-489-1750.


A Taste of Whitestone sparked my palate with the various cuisines that the May 2 event was offering.  I was quite impressed with the spread that Tasty Grill laid out of Greek appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, fries and even dessert.  As co-owner Nick Condomanolis was setting up I asked him about the quantity of food being much more than a “taste.”  He told me that he wanted everyone to enjoy and hoped there would be none left.  I guess that’s one of the best ways to advertise to the 300 people who showed up. Alexi Varveris is the other owner. 
Having to limit the amount of food from the more than 20 vendors, I only grabbed a chicken gyro from Tasty Grill leading me to search out the restaurant, sample much of the menu and have the leftovers to go.  

Entering, I first saw David Rosario slicing off meat from one of three gyros.  Those pleasant food aromas were in the air.  I got the low down about each.  Chicken gyro and pork gyro are prepared on the premises.  Chicken is marinated in salt, pepper, yogurt, mustard, dill and oregano.   Pork gets some cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme and olive oil.   The third is one made of beef and lamb that is already marinated.   Aside from the tender and flavorful meat, the sandwich comes with the usual as accompaniments as well as and added French fries.  I chose to simply sample a plate of all three bare that came with their restaurant made tzatziki sauce.  

Continuing into the seating area, I then saw a rotisserie oven that was cooking a number of chickens. As it turns out, they also prepare bbq St. Louis ribs.  You can get a plate with half a chicken and half rack of fall-off-the – bone ribs.  I did and highly enjoyed the few bites of each with the rest “to go.”  

Looking around I noticed that the walls were filled with framed photos and art that depicted Greece, mostly in the area of Cyprus. Walking further, I spotted the outdoor cafe dining area. 

Time to peruse the menu and ask questions.  I like to find out exactly what is in the food, if it is made from scratch in the restaurant , and how it is prepared. 

I don’t request octopus too often because many places tend to serve it “chewy.”  Nick told me that they get the fresh octopus and marinade it in wine and vinegar then oven bake for about two hours.  When ordered, the pieces are then grilled.  Yes, it did come out tender and delectable. 

As I continued to browse the bill of fare, I noticed that there were three different cheeses, two of which are served grilled.  Haloumi cheese – Semi-hard unripened brine cheese made of a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk and sometimes cow’s milk and has a high melting point. Kefalograviera cheese is a hard cheese that can substitute for the Italian Asiago.  The other is the Greek staple of Feta cheese with its crumbly texture. 

Cheese Pie is one of the starters on the menu.  It contains feta, Kefalograviera, cream cheese, and ricotta cheese.  The pie crust alone is rich and flaky. With the combination of cheeses, I would call this the utmost flavorful substitute for mac and cheese.  Excellent for breakfast and served in two large triangles.  One of many sharing ideas of which would go great with one of their salads or one that you can choose your own ingredients.  

Spinach Pie is another Greek staple and had to indulge. This is made with both the spinach and feta cheese on the inside, baked in that thin crispy phyllo dough, topping it off with crumbled feta cheese. 
Tasty Grill may want to compete in the next Chicken Soup Cookoff with their Avgolemono soup made with their own chicken broth, celery, onions, carrots, lemon juice, eggs and pieces of chicken. 
“Do you want fries with that?”  How about a Greek version that are lightly beer battered and topped with oregano and crumbled feta?   

Chicken wings are always a good seller, especially when they are meaty and savory.  I had to try them in a sweet bbq sauce as I didn’t want anything too peppery.  Thumbs up on this.

There were other items that I passed up, such as burgers, skirt steak, sweet potato fries and grilled veggies.  Oh well, there’s always another time.  

Four desserts were available: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cheese Cake; Manhattan Truffle (ice cream based with cherries in the middle, cookies bottom, surrounded by hard shelled chocolate); Amaretto Truffle (ice cream based and covered with nuts); and Baklava. Although I love nuts, they don’t appear to love me.  However, I did indulge in the portion that had the phyllo dough and honey.  Buttery, flaky and not overly sweet.  

Georgia Savva, had been serving me throughout this tantalizing adventure.  She is also the barista and asked if I wanted coffee.  I requested a cappuccino. When asked if I wanted sugar in it I said, “On no, I’m on a diet.”  She did laugh and did have a bit of sugar in it.   It was a perfectly executed cappuccino.   I so love the aroma and taste of coffee, but alas…I know that it doesn’t love me.  Doesn’t matter when I have it, caf or decaf, I think it might be the acid.  I keep a bag of ground coffee in the house just so I can open and waft it. 

Now, here’s the 101.  Tasty Grill is located at 14-22 150th Street.  Tel: 718-767-7200.  Open Mon – Sunday from 11:30 am to 9:00 pm.  Street Parking and Wheelchair accessible.

Sunday, May 19, 2019


One would think that hearing the owners’ names of Maria and Tony a Gelateria would not expect the full names of Maria Chee and Tony Liu.  Maria and Tony partnered up to open Chillato, a strict Gelateria located at 17-16 154 Street in Whitestone.  No, you won’t find ice cream here.
How did this scrumptious endeavor come to pass?  Maria and her husband John  Zefi are world travelers, having taken in the Rome area of Italy as well as Spain’s Seville, an area also noted for gelato.   Impressed with the difference between ice cream and gelato, they spoke with several gelato makers about their base line recipes and flavor recipes. Here, in the US, they worked with several gelato manufacturers learning how to produce this elegant dessert. 

Maria said that she and Tony have known each other for several years due to their children going to school together.  They were looking to open a store in the neighborhood that would be more of a family hangout in the community and decided on gelato because, “Who doesn’t love gelato”, said Maria. John, by the way, is also a partner as well as Tony’s wife, Linda. 

Chillato proved to have a colorful and welcoming environment as experienced seeing the faces of the customers, not to mention the glow when they taste it.   Most of the staff was present including Christine Jean, who, due to her career, was being gelato trained in the kitchen.  Up front were Marilyn Carpio and Billy Plantin.   

Let’s get to the basic info.  Gelato, is the Italian word for “ice cream” and there is a big difference between the contents and consistency of ice cream vs. gelato. Two of the main ingredients in both ice cream and gelato are milk and cream. However, it is the amount of each that changes the desserts. As the name implies, "ice cream" contains more cream than milk vs gelato, which is made with a greater proportion of whole milk to cream and in some cases, no cream at all.  Gelato is also free of egg yolks, of which ice cream tends to include.

The ingredients are not the only aspect that separates the two as it is also the way that each is made. Both Ice cream and gelato must be churned to create that creaminess.  The speed is important as it results in the amount of air that is incorporated. Thus gelato is churned at a slower speed creating a denser consistency.  To give you an idea about the ice cream that you purchase gelato may contain about 25 to 30 percent air, while ice cream can have as much as 50 percent air. One thing that is not noticeable is that with ice cream the container’s contents information is not really consistent to the actual weight.  

Tony said that due to the storage of ice cream, it has to be at a lower temperature than gelato and thus needing more sugar. “When it’s much colder you get a quick numbness on your tongue requiring it to have even more flavor.”  John said that the core base product is imported from Italy. “We then add our fresh recipes.  In fact, the gelatos that are displayed have most likely come out of the kitchen only an hour ago and then have to be replenished.”

The base of gelato is called sweet milk, not to be confused with what might appear to be vanilla. Hearing about my favorite dessert, I scooted over there to find that they allow you to taste as many flavors as you want.  I tasted every one of them and put my seal of approval on the authenticity having sampled gelato at several places yet only totally pleased with a few.  

I first met Maria and then Tony, who although we did have time to talk, was mostly in the kitchen creating the various flavors as they were running out as well as training Christine Jean in the art of gelato making.   He later told me that when time is not of the essence, he loved working up front and speaking with the customers.  

Hazelnut, known as Nocciola, is my favorite flavor of which I saved for my last tasting.  Chocolate is my second favorite.  One of my least favorites is coconut.  They had just made a batch and had not placed it out yet.  My first flavor taste had me totally surprised at how much I did enjoy the coconut gelato.  

My tendency on both ice cream and gelato is to choose bare flavors vs. ones such as “s’mores,” “raspberry cheese cake,” “lemon butter cookies and cream,”  “oreo cookies and cream”, and “salted caramel” although I did have an appreciation for the palate of each.    
Tiramisu, Pistachio, and Coffee were some examples of the use of the true ingredients vs flavorings.  Stracciatella is basically chocolate swirled into the sweet milk, the core of gelato.   The chocolate hardens like the coating on an ice cream pop.  

I continued putting off the last one, to taste two chocolates.  One was a milk chocolate gelato that was not overly sweet.  I tend to shy away from milk chocolate for that reason.  However, this had to be the best I have had.  A second one was a deep dark chocolate that was made with water and skim milk powder.  Although I relished its sorbet consistency, the powder gave it the classification of being a gelato. It tasted like having a European version of hot chocolate, which contains much more water than milk.  Kind of like when you put a small amount of milk into coffee. 
Next, I meandered to the sorbet area to sample: mango; raspberry lychee; passionfruit; strawberry; and lemon, all of which had the true taste of the fruit and less sweet then I expected, which makes the fruit stand out even more.  Excellent palate cleansers as well.  I found the raspberry lychee to be quite creative in the combination.  

Now it was time for the hazelnut and well worth the waiting.  Maria said that this was the most popular flavor and had to be made often as it quickly ran out.  Beyond this is their signature, “Ferraro Roche,” a hazelnut gelato with chocolate swirled into it (which was not available at this time).   

Chillato also offers these small gelato pops.  Maria said that being a new place (having opened about a month ago) they were experimenting since they create their own recipes.  Pops flavors this day were: lemon cookies and cream, salted caramel, biscotti, chocolate, and sweet milk.  I suggested dipping the coconut gelato in chocolate to call it a “mounds pop.”   

“Rather than mass produce, we are trying to create unique flavor profiles with each gelato that we serve,” said John. “For instance we made a ‘peanut butter and jelly’ and our much requested ‘raspberry cheesecake.’”

Chillato will be one of the featured restaurants at the upcoming Taste of Whitestone, on Thursday May 2.  You should expect two gelatos and one sorbet.  For further information call: (718) 489-1750 or