Location: 361 Main St. Center Moriches, NY 11934
Description: Occupying center stage in downtown Center Moriches, the sprawling, wood-paneled establishment is housed in a ... More »
Occupying center stage in downtown Center Moriches is . The sprawling, wood-paneled establishment, housed in a 19th century building, becomes a major scene on a weekend evening, when it's standing room only near the bar and all three dining rooms are packed. Small wonder the place has its own Sea Cove Italian American Bar & Gril iPhone app.
Recently, the restaurant came under the command of chef and co-owner Joseph Lo Monaco, who added slow-smoked BBQ to a repertoire of Italian dishes and pub classics. Portions are mammoth, prices low. There are even a few family-style deals.
The garlic knots in the bread basket are light and appealing -- a good thing, since the wait between courses can drag on, even on a relatively quiet weeknight. When a Sicilian salad shows up, it turns out to be a winning toss of iceberg lettuce with salami, provolone, artichokes and more in a bright, if slightly acidic, vinaigrette. Lo Monaco makes a very good deep-dish tomato-cheese pizza, ideal for two. Four hearty eaters barely make a dent in a heavy-duty appetizer sampler platter featuring nacho chips topped with pulled pork -- slightly smoky, very saucy -- as well as fried sauce-glazed boneless "wings" and mozzarella sticks.
Word to the nongluttonous: Order pasta dishes in half portions. Linguine marechiara -- fresh clams and shrimp in a tomato and garlic sauce -- has lovely flavor. A shame the strands of pasta are overcooked. Too-soft angel hair plus a sauce that nearly overflows its plate undermine the otherwise fine capellini in tomato sauce laced with shredded crabmeat. And there's way too much wine-butter-lemon sauce on the chicken scarpariello, a version featuring whole cutlets with sausage and mushrooms. A surfeit of both sauce and salt get in the way of the shrimp scampi.
A burger, ordered rare, turns up barely pink at its center, lukewarm. But barbecue ribs are terrific -- smoky, meaty, all-out delicious. Best sides: creamy mac and cheese, nutty-tasting sweet potato fries.
Top finale: a caramel-apple "granny" pie from an outside source.
So much potential here. A bit of menu editing, a lighter hand with the sauces plus some work on timing could turn a community favorite into a true destination.