Feed Me

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

Roots may be Long Island’s most convivial restaurant. From the warm service to the eccentric handmade furnishings to the well-intentioned menu sourced as locally as possible, the place works overtime to make you feel at home. The only thing that could have made a recent dinner there better would have been the food. Our meal was uneven, with many elements lacking clarity.

We enjoyed a beet-and-cheese salad on Israeli couscous and I appreciated the lovely red-leaf lettuce in the house salad, though I could have done without the sweet notes of dried cherries and mango-peach vinaigrette. The Caesar salad was made with the same lovely lettuce, not romaine, which is traditional for Caesar. It was a tentative salad anyway, with no anchovies or discernible shards of Parmesan.

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Fondue was a real problem—not enough cheese, too much liquid. The result was a thin cheese sauce, not a rich, molten, cheesy mass. Good bread though.

I liked my long-cooked pork shoulder, though its polenta accompaniment lacked corny oomph—too much butter perhaps? A friend’s short rib was overcooked into stringiness, the flavors muddy. Friend Two had a vegetable-chicken stir fry special that was just an undifferentiated blob, more college cafeteria than New American restaurant. We all liked Friend Three’s moussaka: the meaty lamb ragu, lush béchamel and sharp tomatoes all tasted powerfully like themselves.

There was good bread pudding and brownie a la mode for dessert. I was gratified to see Roots serves Berceto coffee, roasted in Huntington, and SerendipiTea, blended in Manhasset. But my Darjeeling was brewed in way-too-cool water, resulting in a weak, tepid brew. A waste of what I know was an expensive tea bag.

Roots is at 242 Sea Cliff Ave., Sea Cliff, 516-671-7668.

At Roots, from left: Karen and Richard Santoro, parents of David Santoro, chef owner. Newsday photo, February 8, 2007 by Ken Spencer