"You going to the wedding?" the valet asks.

(Not unless it's very casual.)

"Or dinner?" he adds.

(Yes - park near.)

Up the steps you go, across the marble floor and into the handsome, paneled room with the fireplace, then to the long, bright hallway. The restaurant is a quick right and a quicker left.

The Inn at New Hyde Park, known for decades as Willy Rueck's New Hyde Park Inn, has made a major investment in marriage - and showers, bar/bat mitzvahs and sweet-16 festivities. It's an opulent, suburban caterer, with a traditional, continental restaurant.

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Under owner Frank Marino, The Inn has been refurbished and expanded. It bears no resemblance to the building that once housed the Grand Central Hotel and Dance Hall. Since the late 1930s, under generations of Ruecks, the establishment was a local landmark for German cooking and catered affairs.

Chef Alan Kruger has updated and improved the menu after several years of predictable choices and uneven results.

You may eat in either the dining room or the popular bar; they're separated by French doors. On a recent Friday, deciding where depended on your affection for screechingly over-amped renditions of "Margaritaville" and "More Than a Woman."

Through all this, the waitresses stay smiling and efficient. And the attentive, unflappable maitre d' expertly sets fire to ducks tableside.

Duck a l'orange, in its cliched glory, is among the recommended main courses, tender and sweet, fueled with generous amounts of Grand Marnier. The combo of filet mignon and shrimp scampi-style also works in a comfortable, wedding-reception way.

Baked clams oreganata are well-seasoned and tender, but the crab cake materializes blacktopped and bready. Onion soup gratinee: mild but good. Turn more contemporary with the roasted beets and goat cheese salad or the mesclun and blue cheese salad with Asian pears.

Barramundi, a tender fish similar to sea bass, arrives oreganata, moist and fine. And sauerbraten loyalists will find a flaky version more mellow than tart, flanked with dumplings and red cabbage. The competition: jaegerschnitzel with potato pancakes and kassler rippchen with sauerkraut.

Orecchiette in a cousin-of-caponata sauce does include green olives stuffed with pimiento and tiny onions suitable for a Gibson. But the starring eggplant, spurred by capers, is tasty enough.

The Inn's cheesecake won't make memories. Rice pudding, creamy but bland, suggests a worldwide cinnamon and raisin shortage. But there's a satisfying apple strudel. Consider it a taste of nostalgia.

And remember that you might find a banana split at the reception. --Peter M. Gianotti (4/27/08)

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Can accommodate up to 450 people for weddings and events. Costs $100-$250 per person.