La Notte review

Among La Notte's top pastas is the husky Among La Notte's top pastas is the husky strozzapreti, similar to long cavatelli, with a zesty lamb ragù, fava beans and herbed ricotta. (Jan. 12, 2013) Photo Credit: Johnny Simon

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REVIEW

Pastaterians will recall so many Italian restaurants at this address that a marinara river must run through it.

A steakhouse once briefly interrupted the current. But its heritage could be traced to Orlando, the best-remembered of all the site's Italian dining rooms. The last few residents included Bel Posto, Tello and Mangiamo.

La Notte keeps the red-sauce tradition going, but adds other flavorful fare, too. It's all served by an attentive staff, in a homey, welcoming spot. The look is sunny, refined and rustic, words that also apply to the cooking.

Besides, except for the long-departed L'Avventura of Bellmore and the current Sicilia in Levittown, this may be the lone Long Island restaurant with a name that suggests an Antonioni movie.

The meditative director here is chef Joseph Cacace, who arrives via Uncle Bacala's in Garden City Park, as well as Manhattan's Gramercy Tavern and The Boathouse.

Nibble on potato and zucchini chips topped with crumbled and melted Gorgonzola cheese, while you're deciding what comes next.

Easily recommended: the Parmesan cheese sformato, which has a lush texture that falls somewhere between soufflé and flan, with enough taste for both. It's artfully designed, separated from a hillock of arugula salad by spears of asparagus.

The inevitable fried calamari shows up crisp and fine, with a familiar marinara and a better lemon aioli. Steamed mussels are good, in a slightly spicy spin on marinara.

But the roasted portobello mushroom, filled with pecorino and fontina, spinach and artichoke hearts, needs a boost, or at least more cheese. Cacace prepares a bracing white bean-and-garlic soup.

Although cold antipasto is easy to overlook, consider this one, an ample arrangement led by prosciutto di Parma, bresaola, Grana Padano cheese and fresh mozzarella.

Top pastas range from the husky strozzapreti, similar to long cavatelli, with a zesty lamb ragù, fava beans and herbed ricotta, to the more-than-basic spaghetti marinara and spaghettini with clams.

The lively catch takes in eggplant-wrapped halibut accented with a tomato-caper coulis, and pan-seared branzino with preserved lemon.

Juicy, pan-roasted Berkshire pork chop with pan-roasted apples and a parsnip puree; hearty chicken alla cacciatora, vie with grilled sausages with broccoli rabe; and pan-seared duck breast in an anise-red wine reduction stand out.

Red-velvet cake and chocolate-peanut butter mousse update the sweets. But there's Italian cheesecake, too. The river keeps rolling along.

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