The 10 best Italian restaurants on Long Island: Eat here now
Italian cuisine is Long Island's most popular. Almost every neighborhood has a favorite haunt, and the competition heightens every year. Here are Newsday's choices for the 10 best in Nassau and Suffolk.
Pentimento(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
Pentimento, Stony Brook: Chef Massimo Fedozzi is transforming Pentimento, a fine restaurant that has become an outstanding destination for seasonal Italian food. Dennis Young's establishment looks pretty much the same, but service has improved and the cuisine has added flair. Recommended: fried-oyster sliders, fried baby artichokes, caponata, orange-and-fennel salad, meatballs, fettuccine with Peconic Bay scallops, tortelli with roasted butternut squash, polenta fries, gnocchi Bolognese, paglia e fieno, shellfish risotto, chocolate tart with amarena cherries, torta di ricotta, gelati and sorbets. (Pictured: Pan seared pork chop with braised cabbage.)
Pentimento in Stony Brook serves a pork chop Milanese with baby arugula and shaved parmesan cheese.
Benny's Ristorante(Credit: Johnny Simon)
Benny's Ristorante, Westbury: Benny DiPietro's comfortable, welcoming restaurant balances the traditional and the contemporary with equal skill and seamless service. It's Italian with feeling. Recommended: beef carpaccio, eggplant alla Benny stuffed with capellini, spiedino alla Romana, bucatini with sardines, fettuccine carbonara (pictured), linguine with clams and sausage, beef braciole with gnocchi, veal chop Milanese, cod Livornese, grilled tuna with pineapple-and-tomato salsa, pan-seared diver scallops with asparagus risotto, zabaglione with berries, cannoli, tiramisu, and cheesecake from the family recipe.
A freshly tossed Caesar salad is served at Benny's Ristorante in Westbury.
The Trattoria(Credit: Daniel Brennan)
The Trattoria, St. James: Chef-owner Steven Gallagher's menu changes daily at this compact, imaginative, fixed-price, cash-only, bring-your-own-wine restaurant. Recommended: house-made ricotta and sun-dried tomato tapenade, braised meatballs, tripe Parmigiana, eggplant Parmigiana, spinach-and-ricotta panzerotti, prawns with yogurt and sorrel sauce, pappardelle Bolognese, lasagna Bolognese, bucatini carbonara, fennel risotto, roast pork loin with grilled spring onions and sweet-sour peaches, black-and-white creme brulee, lemon cheesecake and flourless chocolate-almond cake with vanilla gelato. (Pictured: Paccheri pasta with a hearty suckling pig ragu.)
Tenderloin of pork is paired with apple-braised cabbage at The Trattoria in St. James.
Grotta Di Fuoco(Credit: Newsday/ Linda Rosier)
Grotta Di Fuoco, Long Beach: Grotta di Fuoco fires up dining out at the west end of Long Beach. Go down the industrial metal steps to the sub-street space for Andrew Allotti's lively Italian-inspired cooking. Recommended: individual ''tre porcellini'' and eggplant pizzas, eggplant fries with Calabrian chilies and mascarpone aioli, roasted marrow bones, veal meatballs, seafood stew, tuna crudo, fettuccine carbonara, pork-cheek ravioli, salt cod puttanesca with fregola (pictured), olive-oil cake and a steamed chocolate brownie with limoncello granita.
Fettuccine carbonara is served at Grotta Di Fuoco in Long Beach.
Nick & Toni's(Credit: Gordon M. Grant)
Nick & Toni's, East Hampton: The annuals come and go but perennial Nick & Toni's remains the toughest reservation on a Saturday night in the Hamptons. For good reason. Celebrity sightings notwithstanding, this is an excellent Italianate restaurant, with verve, style and chef Joseph Realmuto's expertise. Recommended: roast chicken, wood-oven roasted whole fish, penne with spicy oven-roasted tomato sauce, seafood risotto, tuna crudo, artichoke salad, grilled soft-shell crab, cod with sunchoke puree, bombolini with lavender cream and coconut sorbet, almond tart, lemon napoleon and biscotti. (Pictured: Vegetable-and-goat cheese terrine.)
Fluke crudo is served at Nick & Toni's in East Hampton.
Luigi Q(Credit: Craig Ruttle)
Luigi Q, Hicksville: Luigi Quarta gives his name to the restaurant. He also defines it with his personality, tastes, interests, reflections, dishes of the moment and the market. This is a highly personal place. It's neither for children nor the inflexible, but it's terrific. Just go with what Luigi Q thinks is especially fine that day. Recommended: hot fried peppers, fried whiting, crabcake, braised octopus, linguine with cuttlefish, pasta all'Amatriciana, shrimp-stuffed paccheri pasta, roasted quail with risotto and white-truffle cream, goat, venison, tripe, biscotti and limoncello. (Pictured: Quail with truffled polenta.)
Espressos, biscotti and creme brulee are served at Luigi Q in Hicksville.
Casa Rustica(Credit: Doug Young)
Casa Rustica, Smithtown: Casa Rustica has updated and redecorated over the years. But Mimmo and Benedetto Gambino's stellar restaurant has kept the emphasis on fresh flavors, seasonal fare and superior service. Recommended: stuffed zucchini blossoms, rice balls, grilled octopus salad, orange-and-fennel salad, scallops with pea-shoot salad, pasta with sardines, pasta with black-olive sauce, ravioli, lasagna Bolognese (pictured), lobster risotto, lobster oreganata or fra diavolo, whole fish baked in a salt crust, veal chop Milanese, zabaglione and all pastries.
Octopus Salad is served at Casa Rustica in Smithtown.
Caci North Fork(Credit: Randee Daddona)
Caci North Fork, Southold: A stylish, rustic restaurant in white and gray, Caci North Fork brings an authentic taste of Italy to the community. Umbrian-born chef Marco Pellegrini and owners Anthony and Danielle Cacioppo emphasize seasonal ingredients on the frequently changing menu. Recommended: seafood guazzetto, grilled striped bass with cacciatora sauce, bistecca alla Fiorentina, strip steak with sweet-sour cipollini, basil tagliatelle with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella, gnocchi with fava beans and crab, red-wine poached pear and warm chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and vanilla gelato. (Pictured: Seared duck breast with apple chutney.)
Airy potato gnocchi with Gorgonzola cheese, radicchio, walnuts in a balsamic-vinegar sauce is served at Caci North Fork in Southold.
18 Bay(Credit: Randee Daddona)
18 Bay, Shelter Island: Elizabeth Ronzetti and Adam Kopels have fashioned an ideal country restaurant devoted to local ingredients, a constantly changing fixed-price four-course menu and imaginative takes on Italian cuisine. There are few more pleasant ways to spend a summer evening than dining alfresco here. Recommended: bluefish crudo with celtuce, striped bass crudo with cucumber and purslane (pictured), garganelli pasta with duck meatballs and charred cherry tomatoes, cannelloni, grilled lamb porterhouse, panini, strawberry profiteroles and peach-and-cherry cobbler.
Braised short rib with cucumber kimchee is served at 18 Bay on Shelter Island.
Stresa(Credit: Johnny Simon)
Stresa, Manhasset: The exceptional Italian restaurant along the Miracle Mile, Stresa has become a landmark. The light, elegant dining room is full of flowers and traditional taste. Host and co-owner Giorgio Meriggi sets the tone and ensures top service. And chef Ella Rocca's daily menu refreshes your appetite. Recommended: sauteed soft-shell crabs, artichoke-and-Parmesan risotto, swordfish carpaccio, four-bean ''campagnola'' soup under a pastry dome, bucatini alla Norma, ravioli, roast duck with rose-wine sauce, steak alla King, biscotti and Long Island's peerless souffles. (Pictured: insalata alla Charlotte featuring chopped greens, mushrooms, asparagus and red peppers atop radicchio leaves.)
Chocolate souffle is served at Stresa in Manhasset with creme anglaise being spooned into its chocolate center.