The dish on Long Island's restaurant and food scene.
A yen for robust Italian-American fare drew me to Commack, where Taormina Ristorante & Pizzeria qualifies as a strip mall find. You've been to places like this many times: a pizza parlor up front, a dining room in the rear. This one is particularly warm and welcoming.
The bread basket held a fresh, crusty and porous loaf. Also admirable was an appetizer of baked clams, the briny bivalves crowned with crumbs and served in a light and lemony sauce. The citrus theme continued with an entree of chicken Francese, fork-tender egg-battered cutlets sauteed in a lemon-butter-wine sauce, the rendition the near-clone of one I regularly ordered years ago at a long-departed Brooklyn restaurant. Not nearly so impressive was the overcooked pork chop "Taormina," which was dry despite the garlic sauce blanketing it. But two pastas -- rigatoni alla Amatriciana (with tomatoes, onion and prosciutto) as well as penne with baby eggplant -- managed to be at once vibrant and mellow.
A place to keep in mind when you're in need of Italian-American culinary comfort.
Taormina is at 34 Veterans Memorial Hwy., Commack, 631-499-6900.