277A Larkfield Rd. East Northport, NY 631-757-2404
Few restaurants can make the claim that all the pasta served is house-made, yet Mascali in East Northport has the advantage of being connected (both physically and by ownership) to Larkfield Pasta next door. However, the authentic feel of this trattoria is not only found in the noodles, as the sunny dining room features plain wooden chairs that inspire an old-world feeling, as do the sparse murals sketched on the walls--representations of a nondescript village that could stand anywhere in Italy, where one would assume a place or two probably whips up its own spaghetti, penne and fettuccine--just like this venue does.
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday; 3 p.m.-11 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.Ambience:
Restrooms not wheelchair accessible.
Few restaurants can make the claim that all the pasta they serve is house-made. Mascali in East Northport, though, has the advantage of being connected (both physically and by ownership) to Larkfield Pasta next door. The restaurant, which used to be Larkfield Cafe, underwent more than just a name change when chef Jim Bancheri came onboard as a co-owner. He has updated the menu and brightened the dim lighting. And while the space could use a makeover, the food just keeps getting better.
A small Margherita pizza, ideal for sharing, has a thick crust with good flavor and lots of character as well as a molten, melting topping of plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil. An unusual coral-hued clam chowder (a cross between New England and Manhattan) is just creamy enough, loaded with clams and fresh vegetables. I'm taken by the lightness of the mozzarella en carrozza, freshly made cheese fried in bread and served with a choice of two sauces; our accommodating waiter brings both - a spunky anchovy and a bright marinara.
The kitchen makes a vibrant tomato sauce that pairs well with cheese ravioli. Like all the fresh pasta here, it's got a light, al dente quality I prize. I order capellini de pomodoro (angel hair pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil) with meatballs on the side. A major hit on all counts. Linguine in red clam sauce features lots of fresh littleneck clams; gnocchi Bolognese stars light semolina dumplings in a hearty tomato-based meat sauce.
Bancheri does a compelling special of chicken cacciatore, cut-up chicken on the bone sauteed with mushrooms and finished in a rich tomato sauce, served over al dente orecchiette (little ears). Chicken scarpariello, boneless breasts sauteed with sweet sausage, garlic and potatoes, gets an added jolt from hot cherry peppers.
I'm put off by the pasta e fagiole. It's virtually a bowl of beans with very little soup and even less flavor. And I'm at a loss to understand the trite house garden salad, gratis with every entree.
Bancheri's lush crème brûlée crackles on top. My spoon shatters through to a warm, silky custard below. Somehow, his tiramisu manages to be both light and unconscionably rich.
At the back door of the restaurant, our party encounters Bancheri, out for a breath of night air. "I put my heart into everything I cook," he says.
I believe him.
Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 10/29/08