MORE AT VERACE
A year into its run, chef Francesco Torre has left Verace in Islip and the kitchen is now being run by corporate executive chef Cornelius Gallagher. Gallagher is in the Verace kitchen "five nights a week," said Michael Bohlsen, owner of the Bohlsen Restaurant Group, which also includes Tellers in Islip, Beachtree in East Islip, Prime in Huntington and H2O in Smithtown.
Torre, a native of Tuscany who had cooked in Italy and in Napa, was key in creating Verace's "true Italian" concept. (Verace means "truthful" in Italian.) Portions tended toward the small-plate variety; the original idea was that diners would compose a dinner from three (or four or five) small plates.
According to Michael Bohlsen, the menu isn't being changed so much as expanded. "Verace was built to be a restaurant that you could go to a few times a week. And we have a significant client base that is looking for a broader menu."
The new menu will include, for the first time, double-size portions of pasta and more and larger main courses. "You'll be able to create the dining experience you're looking for, whether authentic Italian, or a more traditional Italian-American."
When I talked to him, Torre conceded that he felt uncomfortable overseeing the larger menu. "What I like, " he said, "is a menu of about 30 items - local, seasonal, organic - that change often." He is currently in talks to be the executive chef at a new restaurant, and he promised to get in touch when he opens it.
Verace is at 599 Main St., Islip, 631-277-3800. - ERICA MARCUS
THE NEW OLD FIELDS
What's old can also be new - that's the notion driving the recently reopened Old Fields in Greenlawn.
Earlier this year, David and Christine Tunney took over the venerable Old Fields Inn, a fixture near the Greenlawn LIRR station since 1956. David Tunney (also a partner at HONU in Huntington and Besito in Huntington and Roslyn) said his aim was to update the space (which has a working fireplace) while maintaining its cozy ambience. Affordability and a family-friendly vibe were also priorities.
I stopped in for dinner one recent evening, when the wood-paneled front room was hopping. Upbeat rock music played in the background (lots of Springsteen) and TV screens were tuned to sporting events.
As for the food, I was impressed with a thick, oozy turkey burger ($12.95) topped with a rousing combo of jalapeños, Jack cheese and a green tomatillo salsa. Accompanying steak fries (the only item that's previously frozen, according to Tunney) were a bit of a comedown. Fans of the old Old Fields' marinated steak will be glad to know that the Tunneys have kept the recipe, using it to advantage in a juicy marinated skirt steak. It was one of the highest-priced items on the menu but still not bad for $17.95.
The place is now only open for dinner and brunch. Lunch service is slated to kick in come January.
Old Fields is at 81 Broadway, Greenlawn, 631-754-9868. - JOAN REMINICK