Our critics' favorite soothing soups
THE SOUP: Billi Bi
THE COST: $3.95, cup; $4.95, bowl
Tony Belucci, chef-owner of the decidedly modest Winnie's, delights in the tony provenance of his classic mussel bisque, Billi Bi, "named for an American living in Paris, William B. Leeds, who loved the mussel soup at Maxim's so much, they named it after him." Maxim's version couldn't be much finer than Winnie's, little more than mussels pureed into their saffron-tinged cooking broth, then garnished with more plump mussels. Call ahead to see if it's on the menu.
PETER M. GIANOTTI'S PICKS
STRESA, 1524 Northern Blvd., Manhasset, 516-365-6956
THE SOUP Campagnola
THE COST $10.50
Campagnola is made with white and black beans, lentils and chickpeas, with chicken stock as a base. This rustic and refined production is finished under a pastry lid and looks a little like a homey, humble version of Paul Bocuse's classic black-truffle soup.
H2O SEAFOOD GRILL, 215 W. Main St., Smithtown, 631-361-6464
THE SOUP New England clam chowder
THE COST $7
In the opening passage of "Moby-Dick," when Ishmael feels a "damp, drizzly November" in his soul, Melville figures it's time for his whaler to go to sea. An alternative: New England-style clam chowder, specifically one with applewood-smoked bacon.
EMILIO'S, 2201 Jericho Tpke., Commack, 631-462-6267
THE SOUP Pasta e fagioli
THE COST $3.95, cup; $7.95, bowl
Finding pasta e fagioli on Long Island is like coming across sand on Jones Beach. Pre-pizza, or other main dish, consider this hearty, bracing, very satisfying one made with white beans, ditalini pasta, chicken stock and a tint of tomato.
JOAN REMINICK'S PICKS
PINE AIRE FISH & DELI, 140 Pine Aire Dr., Bay Shore, 631-231-4467
THE SOUP Sopa de pescado
THE COST $12.99
Is soup a meal? That overriding question is answered with a resounding "yes" at this colorful El Salvadoran seafood restaurant adjacent to a fish market. A big bowl of sopa de pescado yields a haul of shrimp, clams and at least one fat slab of red snapper, all swimming in a fragrant, heady brew laced with chopped fresh cilantro. What more does one need?
LL DENT, 221 Old Country Rd., Carle Place, 516-742-0940, lldent.com
THE SOUP Toby's Georgia hash
THE COST $2.95, cup; $4.95, bowl
Southern chef Leisa Dent is justifiably proud of her late father's specialty, Toby's Georgia hash. It's a spicy, pork-laced gumbo that falls somewhere between a soup and stew; a bowlful is all you need to banish the winter blues.
SHOW WIN, 325 Fort Salonga Rd., Northport, 631-261-6622, sushishowwin.com
THE SOUP Clam
THE COST $2.95
Forego the usual miso at this Northport Japanese restaurant; instead, seek out the quintessentially soothing clam soup. It's made with whole clams in an oceanic broth that floats shards of fresh ginger; each sliver of aromatic root bursts with flavor when crunched.
ERICA MARCUS' PICKS
THE ORIENT, 623 Hicksville Rd., Bethpage, 516-822-1010
THE SOUP Tofu-spinach-pork soup
THE COST Small (serves 2) is $7.95; large (serves 4 to 6) is $10.95.
The broth of this soothing elixir - based on chicken but augmented with a little ginger and perhaps dried scallop - is light but rich, a perfect foil for the melting cubes of tofu, just-wilted spinach and still-tender pork. It's not on the menu, but is always available by request.
WINNIE'S, 166 E. Main St., Bay Shore, 631-665-9706
THE SOUP Billi Bi
THE COST $3.95, cup; $4.95, bowl
Tony Belucci, chef-owner of the modest Winnie's, delights in the tony provenance of his classic mussel bisque, Billi Bi, "named for an American living in Paris, William B. Leeds, who loved the mussel soup at Maxim's so much, they named it after him." Winnie's version is little more than mussels pureed into saffron-tinged cooking broth, garnished with more mussels. Call for availability.
TEL AVIV, 613 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck, 516-466-6136
THE SOUP Lentil herb
THE COST $6.25
Lentil soup can be a heavy-handed affair, but at Tel Aviv, its essential earthiness is brightened with herbs and spices to exotic effect. The soup is made with red lentils, smaller and more delicate than brown, and seasoned with a blend that the chef will not reveal. (I detect a note of cumin.) It's garnished with plenty of fresh cilantro and shards of toasted pita.