Drive along Route 112 in the Patchogue-Medford area, past car dealerships' gaudy banners, and you will readily note that this is not the most scenic byway on Long Island. Still, it's worth a detour off the Long Island Expressway for lunch or dinner at Pita House, a delightful Turkish restaurant.

Two years ago, owner Cafer Sahin more than doubled the size of the little cafe once known as Medford Pitta and, more recently, he added a Mediterranean grocery next door. Clearly, Sahin has a strong local following.

To understand that popularity, go for lunch and try the turkey gyro-doner kebab sandwich. Sahin prides himself on his house-made gyro meat. He prepares it by slicing the meat (turkey or lamb) raw, marinating it and then threading it onto vertical rotisserie skewers. Roasting burnishes the turkey to a deep gold, infusing it with a wonderful barbecue flavor.

Sahin piles his sandwiches with bright greens, ripe tomatoes and thin slices of red onion. Try the falafel (deep-fried ground chickpea balls), which are herbal and substantial. Whatever sandwich you get, be sure to top it off with a dollop of dill-laced yogurt sauce.

Appetizers and dips satisfy. Hummus, eggplant salad and pan-fried eggplant with tomato sauce are garlicky and fine. Ezme (chopped tomatoes with hot pepper, onion and parsley sprinkled with walnuts), which is supposed to be fiery, is more savory than spicy-hot. You'll like both the dill-spiked chicken lemon soup and the zesty red lentil soup. Order the exemplary shepherd's salad, made with vibrant chopped tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, green pepper and black oil-cured olives.

On one visit, lamb shish kebab arrived well done rather than medium rare, as ordered. Our waitress cheerfully took it back, returning a few minutes later with a much better, juicier version. It was served atop saffron-tinged bulgur pilaf, which can become an addiction. Chicken shish kebab, also a trifle overcooked, was, nonetheless, full of flavor. Lamb gyro is rough-hewn in texture, with a fine spicy kick. A vegetarian alternative is the super grilled vegetables "Iskender," butter-sauteed bread topped with yogurt sauce, vegetables and, finally, a rich tomato sauce.

Do check the specials board, for it is there you will find lahmajoun, thin, crisp pizza-like discs crowned with a spicy lamb mixture. Kuvurma, a specialty of Sahin's hometown, translates into savory lamb chunks, grilled peppers and tomatoes served with bulgur rice and a parsley and onion-flecked yogurt sauce. It's terrific.

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For dessert, enjoy the light cinnamon- scented kazandibi (baked rolled custard). Kataifi (shredded phyllo pastry) and baklava are tributes to honey, nuts and calories.

Pita House is not a fancy Saturday night sort of place, but come Saturday night, you will find the dining room packed. People know a good thing when they taste it. --Joan Reminick (10/20/02)