Italian cuisine is unquestionably Long Island’s most popular. Whether offering Italian-American favorites or regional Italian specialties, the restaurants continue to grow. And almost every community hosts at least one. So the competition to rank in the top tier is intense. Here are the 10 best for 2016.
Autentico(Credit: Doug Young)
Autentico, Oyster Bay: This cozy, inviting newcomer sparks dining out downtown. Francesco Pecoraro, who cooked in Emilia-Romagna and Sicily, prepares regional Italian fare. The menu changes weekly. Recommended: cheeses and cured meats with mostarda di Cremona; panelle, or chickpea fritters, with scrambled egg and Grana Padano cheese; anellini pasta baked with eggplant, sausage, and Gorgonzola; spaghetti with tuna sauce and capers; stracchino cheese mousse with honey and caramelized nuts; brioche with gelato. (Pictured: Stuffed artichoke hearts with asparagus).
Anellini Siciliani, baked with eggplant, Gorgonzola and sausage, is served at Autentico in Oyster Bay.
Benny's Ristorante(Credit: Johnny Simon)
Benny's Ristorante, Westbury: Benny DiPietro amiably and intently oversees the dining room of his namesake, traditional Italian restaurant as he has for decades. Of course, regulars abound. Recommended: ricotta-and-pasta-stuffed eggplant alla Benny; beef carpaccio; spiedino alla Romana; mushroom risotto; gnocchi with veal ragu; bucatini con le sarde, or with sardines, wild fennel raisins and pine nuts; pan-seared sea scallops with asparagus risotto; mustard-crusted rack of lamb; house-made cheesecake. (Pictured: Rigatoni alla Pugliese).
Veal Sorrentina, a breaded veal cutlet topped with prosciutto and mozzarella, is served at Benny's Ristorante in Westbury.
Caci North Fork(Credit: Randee Daddona)
Caci North Fork, Southold: Owners Anthony and Daniele Cacioppo met Caci's chef, Marco Pellegrini, in Italy. The trio fashions a meticulous, sparely decorated, market-driven spot. Recommended: sea scallops with Sicilian blood orange sauce and fennel; buffalo mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes and basil sorbet; buffalo-milk ricotta ravioli with leeks, speck and Parmesan cheese; potato gnocchi with pork ragu; grilled red snapper with lemon jam; grilled strip steak with black summer truffles; tiramisu; chestnut gelato. (Pictured: Seared duck breast with apple chutney.)
Potato gnocchi with Gorgonzola cheese, radicchio, walnuts and balsamic vinegar sauce is served at Caci North Fork in Southold.
Cafe Testarossa(Credit: Jeremy Bales)
Cafe Testarossa, Syosset: Billy Sansone's refreshing, stylish take on Italian cuisine is seasoned with New American accents. His popular restaurant just vrooms along. Recommended: marinated and grilled octopus with escarole, ceci, crushed tomatoes; veal meatball sliders; crab-and-shrimp cake with sweet corn salsa; halibut any style; ricotta-potato gnocchi with arugula pesto; paccheri pasta with pork ragu and cannellini beans; mezze-rigatoni with veal sausage Bolognese; baked apple turnover. (Pictured: Artichoke-and ricotta-stuffed tortelloni in a roasted garlic and crushed tomato sauce).
Seared swordfish is served with broccoli rabe and sweet corn is served at Cafe Testarossa in Syosset.
Casa Rustica(Credit: Alessandro Vecchi)
Casa Rustica, Smithtown: Mimmo and Benedetto Gambino's full-flavored restaurant has starred for more than 30 years. The décor may change and some dishes come and go. But it's as consistent as it gets. Recommended: stuffed zucchini blossoms; grilled calamari; grilled octopus salad; orange-and-fennel salad; lasagna Bolognese, pasta con le sarde; lobster risotto; lobster fra diavolo; whole branzino baked in a salt crust; veal chop Milanese; herb-rubbed grilled rib-eye with lemon zest; chicken scarpariello; all desserts. (Pictured: Spaghetti alla Siciliana).
Octopus salad is served at Casa Rustica in Smithtown.
Franina(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Franina, Syosset: The Zitoli family opened Franina in 1980. The handsome restaurant is at its peak this year, with standout specialties and seamless service. Recommended: cotechino sausage with lentils; tripe with potatoes and tomatoes; seafood salad with lobster, shrimp, and calamari; spaghetti alla carbonara; pappardelle Bolognese; fusilli with meatballs and tomato sauce; lobster-and-shrimp fra diavolo with fettuccine; striped bass oreganata; tiramisu; zabaglione with berries for two. (Pictured: Shellfish fra diavolo).
Spaghetti alla carbonara, a classic Roman dish, is prepared at Franina in Syosset.
Luigi Q(Credit: Newsday/ Erica Marcus)
Luigi Q, Hicksville: Luigi Quarta runs a very personal restaurant, reflecting his emphasis on the market and elevated home cooking. Just go with what he thinks is best today. Not an establishment for younger children. Recommended: blistered hot long peppers; crabcake; octopus with cannellini beans; grilled swordfish with rosemary; linguine with cuttlefish; shrimp-stuffed paccheri; roasted quail with risotto; venison with red wine-and-blueberry sauce; cheesecake; biscotti with vin santo. (Pictured: Linguine Giovannina with cherry tomatoes and peppers).
Quail with truffled polenta is served at Luigi Q in Hicksville.
Nick & Toni's(Credit: Newsday / Gordon M. Grant)
Nick & Toni's, East Hampton: The hottest reservation of the Hamptons' summer invariably belongs to Nick & Toni's. The artfully countrified restaurant is a magnet for celebrities. But, as it has been for years, the real star is chef Joseph Realmuto and his seasonal winners. Recommended: seared local tuna with zucchini; roasted wild mushrooms; penne alla vecchia bettola, or with spicy oven-roasted tomato sauce; ricotta gnocchi with morels and asparagus; risotto with wild ramps; wood-roasted whole fish; all desserts. (Pictured: Vegetable-and-goat cheese terrine).
Fluke crudo is served at Nick & Toni's in East Hampton.
Scarpetta Beach(Credit: Gordon M. Grant)
Scarpetta Beach, Montauk: Scarpetta Beach made the biggest splash of 2015, turning oceanfront Gurney's Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa into a major dining destination. Recommended: raw yellowtail with ginger oil; fluke crudo with sunchoke and citrus; fritto misto; spaghetti with tomato and basil; tagliatelle with lobster, asparagus and basil breadcrumbs; duck foie gras ravioli in a Marsala reduction; black cod with caramelized fennel and tomato; halibut with brioche breadcrumb crust; limoncello semifreddo. (Pictured: Housemade tagliatelle with lobster and asparagus).
Seared scallops are served with peas, morels and tarragon at Scarpetta Beach in Montauk.
Stresa(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Stresa, Manhasset: Elegant, refined, full of flowers, Stresa excels under Giorgio Meriggi's direction and Ella Rocca's kitchen. It's the paradigm of traditional style. Recommended: four-bean soup under a pastry crust; swordfish carpaccio; eggplant lasagnette; sautéed soft-shell crabs; artichoke-and-Parmesan risotto; roast duck with rose wine sauce; bucatini alla Norma; sirloin steak alla King, with peppers, onions, mushrooms; chocolate soufflé; Grand Marnier soufflé; biscotti with vin santo. (Pictured: Bigoli alla Latina).
Chocolate souffle, finished with Grand Marnier-infused creme Anglaise, is a signature dessert at Stresa in Manhasset.