Italian restaurants on LI: Whose fault is it?

At Luigi Q in Hicksville, daily specials include At Luigi Q in Hicksville, daily specials include spaghetti vongole with clams and ribbons of zucchini, June 19, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus

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Feed Me

The dish on Long Island's restaurant and food scene.

OK, here we go again. Another Italian restaurant rant.

Last night, a colleague and I had a terrific meal at Luigi Q in Hicksville. Among the highlights: Oyster Bay Cove oysters both raw and "casino'ed" with bacon and, instead of bread crumbs, a vegetable brunoise; linguine Giovaninna, simply, sparely dressed with capers and cherry tomatoes; deep-fried Italian peppers with sea salt and olive oil; spaghetti with clams and skinny ribbons of zucchini; dead ripe melon annointed with lemon juice and Cointreau.

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What a relief. Over the last few weeks, she and I have had a number of separate but equally disappointing meals at local Italian restaurants. Both featured countless crimes aginast Italian cuisine, including but not limited to overcooked, oversauced pasta; overdependence on hackneyed, overpowering ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic glaze and garlic; choosing quantity over quality; betraying the Italian reverence for produce with tired vegetables and tasteless fruit.

I used to blame the restaurants for these misstepsand I dont meant to let them entirely off the hookbut I suppose they are just responding to customer demand.  Luigi Q and Trattoria Diane are two Nassau Italians that consistently hold themselves to a high standard, but on a typical weeknight, I've never seen either of their dining rooms full. If they were mobbed every night, wouldnt more Nassau restaurateurs follow their lead?

To paraphrase the bard, Is the fault not in our culinary stars, but in ourselves?

This isn't simply about price. I do not know of any good, dirt cheap Italian restaurants. Good olive oil, ripe vegetables, fresh fish and talented cooks cost money. But, I hasten to add, spending a lot of money at a local Italian restaurant is no guarantee that you will get a good meal.

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