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Celebrating a decade of fine Italian food

Councilman Jim Gennaro and Assemblyman David Weprin celebrate the 10th anniversary of Acquista Trattoria July 15 with the Acquista family. The family-run Jamaica Estates restaurant has served Italian food at the corner of 178th Street and Union Turnpike since 2001. Pictured are Fabio Acquista (l.-r.), Carlo Acquista, Weprin, Gennaro, Maria Acquista, Rosario Acquista, Joe Acquista, Paolo Acquista and Alessandro Acquista. Photo courtesy Gennaro's office
TimesLedger Newspapers

Some entrepreneurs work their whole lives before they can start a successful business. But Carlos Acquista recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Jamaica Estates Italian restaurant he started when he was only 23.

Acquista and four of his brothers started Acquista Trattoria, at 178-01 Union Tnpk., shortly after Acquista graduated from nearby St. John’s University.

“My dad was always in the food business,” he said. “It was getting time to get a job or get into the family business.”

The restaurant has one secret recipe, his mother’s tiramisu, but Acquista said the key to good Italian food is self-evident: “Keep it Italian.”

Acquista and his brothers wanted a menu that stayed true to his family’s Sicilian roots and did not try to change any of the Old World recipes.

His parents came to America from Sicily when they were teenagers, and his whole family speaks Sicilian. His father owned a deli and several food businesses in New York City, which inspired Acquista to start his own.

“I love being around the customers. I’m a people person,” he said. “Seeing people when they walk out of here with a smile on their face, that’s important to my father as well.”

And those customers have plenty to smile about.

The menu is extensive, according to Acquista, in order to try and please anyone who walks through the door.

His favorite item is the vitello alla valdostana, which is a pounded veal cutlet stuffed with fontina cheese and prosciutto and doused in a marsala wine sauce and mushrooms, but the menu also offers a long list of pastas and other dishes with either fish, chicken, veal or vegetables.

And the ingredients are fresh since, according to Acquista, they do not have to travel far to get onto your plate.

The restaurant buys organic produce from farms in New York and Long Island to prepare the sundry dishes on the menu.

And after 10 years, the brothers have had plenty of practice and now consider themselves woven into the fabric of the neighborhood.

“We feel like we’re an extension of Flushing, Jamaica Estates and St. John’s,” he said.

The brothers, three younger than Acquista and one older, have also expanded their business outside the neighborhood as well as outside the borough.

They run two cafeterias, one at St. Francis College and another at Fontbonne Hall Academy, both in Brooklyn.

And though Acquista will not part with the recipe, the brothers sell Mamma Acquista Tiramisu outside the restaurant as well.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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