In 1996, Bravo! Nader announced itself with an exclamation point and earned a star from Newsday. Over the years, chef-owner Nader Gebrin has chipped out a cozy niche in downtown Huntington, in quarters as compact as the portions are generous. The 44-seater still looks a bit like an above-ground finished basement, all paneled and adorned with memorabilia. The comfortably lived-in eatery has a devoted clientele, counting some who've taken Gebrin's popular cooking classes. And these days, the food deserves two stars.

THE BEST

If he ever teaches how to make crab cakes, be sure to get the recipe. They're baked, meaty, first-class. Shaped like a hamburger, his Egyptian falafel topped with hummus is a flavorful, unexpected appetizer. Return to the familiar with good fried zucchini. "Spicy baked ziti" gets its fire from jalapeño peppers, which definitely do the job. House-made sausage with peppers and onions, in a light marinara, could do double-duty as a husky hero. Rigatoni Bolognese: straightforward and fine.

Chopped salad with feta cheese and the namesake salad with hearts of palm, fennel and radicchio are refreshing alternatives.

Gebrin expertly fries whole flounder, keeping it moist inside and crunchy out, finished with a snappy garlic and cilantro sauce. Tender pork chops stuffed with sausage, broccoli rabe and mozzarella rise high and could feed two.

The much-touted Napoleon doesn't have a thousand layers, but it's fragile and sweet, with a hint of almond. And the creamy tiramisu has enough espresso to keep you awake.


THE REST

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Routine baked clams with lemon and garlic sauce. The pillow-shaped lobster raviolo is underseasoned but in a tasty vodka sauce. Steak alla pizzaiola, in a savory crimson sauce, is chewy. Dry cheesecake. Dull chocolate mousse cake.


THE BOTTOM LINE

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Bravo! Nader is located at 9 Union Place, Huntington, 631-351-1200, bravonader.com