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A friend was just back from his first trip to Italy and going through the usual symptoms of culinary withdrawal. To ease his re-entry, I took him to Luigi Q in Hicksville (where they know me).

In a proper Italian carbonara, pancetta (or, better still, guanciale) and grated cheese are bound to the pasta by egg alone. Such a carbonara is a rarity here, but owner Luigi Quarta makes one. He can't restrain himself from gilding the lily: Sometimes the carbonara has thinly sliced cabbage in it. (What can I say? It works.) On our visit, he enriched the sauce with a little truffle butter. My jet-lagged friend was pleased.

What I miss most about dining in Italy is the primacy of vegetables and, here again, Luigi Q excels. Before we even ordered, Quarta, a native of Brindisi in Puglia, brought us a plate of superb eggplant "done the way my father did it." Small eggplants had been thinly sliced, lightly salted to draw out the bitterness, then grilled and garnished with good olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh mint.

Next up, a tangled pile of Italian peppers, sauteed simply in olive oil with garlic.

We enjoyed our secondi, a filet of halibut, an expertly pan-roasted baby chicken. But to me it was the pasta and, especially, the vegetables that really stood out.

Luigi Q is at 400A S. Oyster Bay Rd., Hicksville, 516-932-7450. -- ERICA MARCUS


Left Coast Kitchen and Cocktails, the two-star gastro pub in Merrick, has started breakfast service between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Chef Chris Randell's fare includes pancakes, corn cakes, French toast, smoked chicken hash, crab-and-lobster hash, six-egg omelets; poached eggs on jalapeño-garlic-cheese bread with crumbled bacon, tomatoes and scallions; buttermilk biscuits and white-sausage gravy with scrambled eggs and potatoes; chicken and waffles; cheese quesadilla with black beans and red rice scrambled eggs; and lox, scrambled eggs, cream cheese and red onion between house-made latkes. Expect to pay between $7 and $17.

Left Coast Kitchen and Cocktails is at 1810 Merrick Rd., Merrick; 516-868-5338. -- PETER M. GIANOTTI


Recently, I found myself in a restaurant with 3 pounds of crawfish. By the time they showed up, everyone at the table was pretty full and so, after consuming four or five, we had them packed to go. The next morning I set about shelling the crustaceans and, almost an hour and a half later, I had a little short of 8 ounces of meat. That's right, the crawfish yielded about 15 percent meat by weight. Since those 8 ounces took me 90 minutes, my shelling rate was .09 ounces a minute. Also my fingers were bleeding (and stinging from the spicy seasoning).

Shortly after that meal, I consumed two 11/4-pound lobsters in less than 40 minutes. Hard shell lobsters yield about 25 percent meat and my rate was 0.25 ounces a minute. So, lobster yields 60 percent more meat than crawfish, and I was able to shell the lobster nearly three times more quickly.

I have to wonder why anyone eats crawfish--especially when there's lobster around. I'd rather attend a quilting bee. -- ERICA MARCUS

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