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The dish on Long Island's restaurant and food scene

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Erica Marcus

Erica Marcus has covered food for Newsday since 1998. She has written features about the origins of Grandma pizza, the controversy over matzoh brei, the mystery of the soft-shell lobster and many many articles that attempt to justify the hundreds of dollars she spends every year on knives and knife-sharpening. Since 2005 she has written a weekly column, Burning Questions, in which she answers readers' questions. In 2002 her article “A Knish is Still a Knish” was nominated for a James Beard award, and in 2003 she won the New York Newswomen’s Club Front Page award for her “Food Without The Fuss: a history of TV Dinners.” After graduation from Swarthmore College, Erica took a job at Crown Publishers, first in production and later in editorial. She rose to the rank of Senior Editor and worked on a wide range of books, including many award-winning cookbooks. She left book publishing for newspaper journalism the same year she left Manhattan for her ancestral home of Brooklyn, where she still lives. She eats most of her meals on Long Island.

Swingbellys in Long Beach gets tweaked

A half rack of baby back ribs is

(Credit: Linda Rosier)

Swingbellys Beachside BBQ, one of Newsday’s Top 10 barbecue spots, has renovated its dining room, tweaked its menu and entered into a partnership with Speakeasy, the nearby bar and grill.

Swingbellys owner, Mike Bonino, is still part of the team, but his former partner Sean Sullivan, who brought Swingbellys back after the devastation of superstorm Sandy, is no longer involved.

Jake Marlin,...

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Waiter, there’s a knish in the mall

The potato knish is the signature item at

(Credit: Orchard & Grand)

Orchard & Grand, a New Jersey-based company whose mission is bringing the knish to the mall, has opened a Lower East Side-themed food kiosk at Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream. It's on the main level (Kohl's side) in front of Foot Locker, between Forever 21 and Old Navy.

For the uninitiated, a knish is a savory filled pastry whose most famous incarnation is the deep-fried square made...

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Long Island restaurants: 2014’s Top 20

At Ristegio's in North Patchogue, chef Richard Lanza

(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)

It’s been a year of nonstop eating and judging for Newsday food critics Peter M. Gianotti and Joan Reminick. And now they have compiled their lists of the best restaurants that opened on Long Island in 2014.

Steve Bellone and Edward Mangano, if you're keeping score, Nassau takes this one by a nose: 11 of the 20 restaurants are in Nassau. American/New American was the winningest cuisine, trailed...

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Amerrickana Tapas & Bar opens in Merrick

At Amerrickana Tapas & Bar in Merrick, sliders

(Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)

It’s Long Island's second small-plates-restaurant opening of the week. Amerrickana Tapas & Bar has taken over the Merrick storefront that used to be Surf ‘n Turf Mediterranean Grill. With its neon-accented bar and bright-white wooden accents, the week-old restaurant has a much more feminine feel than Surf ‘n Turf.

Tapas is defined loosely here; Spanish is one of very few cuisines not referenced...

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Cuban sandwich diplomacy

A Cuban sandwich served at the reborn Cafe

(Credit: Newsday / Ana P. Gutierrez)

On Wednesday, the Obama administration announced its intention to pursue full diplomatic relations with Cuba. Long Island restaurants are way ahead on that score; you don’t even need a visa to enjoy a good Cuban meal and a mojito in Nassau or Suffolk:

Corazon de Cuba is at 26 E. Park Ave., Long Beach, 516-272-4200, corazondecuba.com

Havana Central is at Roosevelt Field, 630 Old Country...

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Chow Down Diner in Bethpage falls flat

The cheeseburger deluxe at Chow Down Diner in

(Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)

Since it opened in February, Chow Down Diner has been going steadily downhill.

In her initial review, Newsday’s Joan Reminick praised “its sleek decor and contemporary-retro vibe” but noted that its “real attraction” was “the cuisine of chef Steven Del Lima. Instead of offering the typical encyclopedic diner menu, Del Lima presents a well-edited repertoire of cleverly tweaked American classics.”

Now,...

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Happy Hanukkah; fry latkes Tuesday night

Latkes

(Credit: iStock)

At sundown Dec. 16 this year, Jews usher in the Festival of Lights. But Hanukkah could just as easily be called the Festival of Olive Oil.

The holiday commemorates the 2nd century BCE uprising of the rebellious Jewish Maccabees against King Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The victorious Maccabees returned to the Temple in Jerusalem to find it desecrated. The king’s troops had defiled all but...

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LI farmers markets move indoors

The offerings at the winter farmers market at

(Credit: Barbara Alper)

Most of Long Island's farmers markets take their final bow at Thanksgiving, but a few intrepid souls have organized winter markets where folks can continue to shop until the crocuses come up. The produce offerings are slim, of course, but onions, cauliflower, local hothouse salad greens and potatoes are nothing to sneeze at. And all the markets round out their merchandise with baked goods, jams,...

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Viaggio Tapas opens in Rockville Centre

Viaggio Tapas is a new small-plates restaurant in

(Credit: Viaggio Tapas)

Here's a late-breaking entry to 2014's crop of small-plates restaurants: Viaggio Tapas is open for dinner in Rockville Centre.

The restaurant is a collaboration between Ronny Jaramillo, a former general manager at Besito, and RoseAnn Vercillo. They have transformed the space that used to house The Manhattan Bar & Lounge. Now it's all rustic wood, subway tiles and copper pots — plus hooks...

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Cooking classes at MarGene Farms, Mattituck

MarGene Farms is a certified organic farm in

(Credit: Ian J. Stark)

MarGene Farms, one of Long Island’s only certified organic farms, is holding a pair of Tuesday-night cooking classes with local chefs.

The lineup:

Dec. 16: Steven Amaral, owner-chocolatier at North Fork Chocolates and former owner of Amarelle in Wading River

Jan. 20: Taylor Knapp, chef at First & South in Greenport

The chefs’ menus will be focused on seasonal produce...

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