243 Hempstead Ave. Malverne, NY 516-612-7400
Hours: Lunch, Monday to Friday, noon to 3 p.m.; Sunday to Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m.; Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Ambience: Good Service: Fair Credit cards: Accepted Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible.
The cellphone app measuring decibels hovers at rackety -- and it's only a weeknight. At
in Malverne, every seat at the bar and communal table is occupied; the attractive wood and brick dining room virtually pulsates. The draw here is Italianate small plates, plus a few entree-size dishes. And wine. Surprising, though, that at a place whose name translates as "red grape," a waitress opens a bottle of tempranillo and pours it equally into four glasses without allowing a first taste. On the other hand, chef-owner Antonio Bove's kitchen seems to know what it's about. This is established by the first dish to hit the table, a crisp-crusted margherita pizza, simple, bright and meltingly good. A trio of bruschette -- one with pickled figs, Taleggio cheese and roasted pistachio; another with wild mushrooms, Manchego cheese and truffle oil, and a third with Gorgonzola, arugula and walnuts -- attests to skill in combining flavors and textures. A special of three eggplant "meatballs" turns out a winner, although more marinara is needed for one of the spheres. Another special, truffled macaroni and cheese, shows up, unexpectedly, with spaghetti, not the best choice of pasta. But a lovely rendition of linguine with clams, zucchini and saffron evokes coastal Italy. And fresh pappardelle with a veal ragu is a robust Italian success. An ordering snafu results in chicken wings with soy and balsamic showing up instead of what was ordered -- wings with orange and lime. The soy wings are comparatively ordinary. Another night, a meatball slider lacks enough sauce, a lobster roll slider features lobster salad that's too finely chopped, although the flavors are right. That's also the case with hard grilled Brussels sprouts with pancetta and pine nuts, which has the potential for being a runaway hit. The piece de resistance turns out to be an entree of Tuscan baby back ribs, the tender pork crusted with aromatic herbs, plated with a sprightly cucumber salad. For dessert, bypass the overly sweet chocolate Nutella crepes and zabaglione in favor of the simplest and often best way to end an Italian meal: gelato. And if the noise is too much for you, you can always take respite in one of the beautifully decorated restrooms, where music plays softly and an aura of calm prevails.