While SaVino's may look like countless Long Island pizza-pasta spots, with its pizza counter on one side, dining room on the other, it has something the others don't: Tony "The Wine Guy" Caracci. An affable presence behind the wine bar, Caracci offers a well-edited, gently priced wine list of about 20 bottles. Ask, and he'll cheerfully come to your table to consult.
A full-bodied glass of "super Tuscan" -- $8 -- pairs well with an old-school Neapolitan pizza that's crisp and puffy-crusted, meltingly good. Molten mozzarella and tomato sauce reappear as major players in a hot antipasto assortment with fried mozzarella sticks, eggplant rollatini, baked clams, shrimp oreganata and stuffed mushrooms. Yet, while everything is good, nothing really stands out.
A side order of meatballs, however, commands attention, making you glad to be in a place where ground beef, bread crumbs, egg and spices come together so lightly and so well. Coated with marinara, the spheres are scene stealers.
Chef Alex Cantor scores again with his sprightly rendition of linguine with white clam sauce made with fresh chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic and a load of Manila clams. Rigatoni Bolognese features al dente pasta in a hearty, cream-lightened meat sauce. It's very good, as is an entree of tender chicken pizzaiola with peppers, onions and mushrooms in a deep red plum tomato sauce. Veal Parmigiana: another simple classic, well rendered.
It comes as some surprise that sole limoncello -- pan-seared fillet of sole with lemon liqueur -- is savory rather than sweet, working well with a take on risotto mixed with spinach and mushrooms. But while walnut-honey-glazed salmon isn't the sticky-sugary dish one might expect, it's undercut by overcooking.
No problem with either the house-made tiramisu, creamy and boozy, or moist, rich chocolate layer cake. Service is upbeat and enthusiastic. And if there's a bit of a wait before the check arrives, nobody's in a rush to leave, anyway.