294 N. Broadway Hicksville, NY 516-938-0220
(THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED)
The first spring of La Primavera was a generation ago. This summer, it's reborn.
Elio Sobrero's northern Italian restaurant, a mainstay on Glen Cove Road through the 1980s, comes alive once more, complete with the chocolate velvet cake and grand meringue bombe.
There was a time when La Primavera and perhaps a half- dozen other establishments defined high-end dining out and major business lunches on Long Island. These stars predated new American cooking, rare tuna and the rise of tiramisu.
La Primavera is seasoned with nostalgia, staffed with tuxedoed waiters. A pianist plays the standards. Tables are respectably spaced. No one need raise a voice to be heard.
But overall, the mood is serene and very comfortable. The experience is equally welcome if you're inclined to resist the trend du jour. The menu is dotted with old favorites. But it does change regularly, too.
The ideal summer special is vitello tonnato, or slices of cold, roast veal under a lush caper-strewn tuna sauce. Asparagus vinaigrette suits the season, too.
And spaghetti primavera, with vegetables, tomato, olive oil and garlic, fits neatly into the competition. Linguine with sausage and broccoli rabe, finished with olive oil, garlic and toasted bread crumbs, takes a heartier, familiar route, and is recommended.
Clams casino are tender, with a gently smoky quality from the bacon. Smoked trout is a generous portion, tasty and right. Likewise, the smoked salmon. And the crabmeat cocktail is both ample and sweet.
You'll also do well with the salads, especially a flag-waving tricolor with Gorgonzola cheese; the union of endive and almonds, and a Caesar with spirit. But potato-leek soup arrives thin and underseasoned.
The kitchen misses with Chilean sea bass Livornese, which is overly pungent. Instead, consider snapper amandine with a light vermouth sauce. Mustard sauce boosts the routine broiled salmon. Gray sole oreganata is a reliable choice. Go modern with seared tuna with mango.
Blackened pork chops seem sprung from another decade. Paired with hot cherry peppers, these thick chops definitely are assertive and to the point. They're also good.
Veal chop Milanese, capped with a salad of diced tomatoes, onions and basil, is on the limp side and doesn't capture the hot-cool appeal of the dish. Veal Marsala and veal Parmigiana also may be available.
Tournedos Rossini hit high notes of richness: two cuts of tenderloin on toasts that are topped with slices of paté and completed with a variation on the truffled sauce a la Perigourdine. You may continue the theme with sweetbreads in a Cognac sauce that's juiced up with pink peppercorns.
For dessert, that elegant, exceedingly focused chocolate velvet cake is mandatory, making you forget mousses past and molten centers present. The meringue bombe rises six inches-plus. Each wedge topples contentedly into a pool of creme anglaise. The house's creme brulee is professional-grade, as are the apple tart, pecan pie and cheese cake.
In a nod to the contemporary, it's made with goat cheese.
-Reviewed by Peter M. Gianotti, 8/10/03