A little over a month ago, the former Empire Szechuan in Syosset morphed into Tao, which serves Chinese, Thai and Japanese fare. Some of the major players from the previous incarnation remain.
While there have been cosmetic changes, too, the place still has the look of being firmly rooted in the '80s. The upside is that the old-school Chinese food -- hard to come by, these days -- is all it should be. Highlights of a recent visit included delicate, pale-green steamed vegetable dumplings ($6), textbook kung pao chicken ($12) and fresh water spinach sauteed with garlic ($10).
Tao is at 6600 Jericho Tpke., Syosset, 516-931-3663. -- JOAN REMINICK
WORTH THE WAIT?
There are idiosyncratic restaurants, and then there is Sorrento's pizzeria in Long Beach. There are no printed menus here, just a board listing the two sizes of pies (small, $11.95, and large, $20) and available toppings. We ordered a small pie and waited. And waited. While we sat there, I took note of the Sorrento's "process." The pies are long and rectangular -- the small looked to be about 10 inches by 2 feet -- and served on wooden planks. Pizzaiolo Mario Calderon fashioned each one lovingly, then slipped it into the wood-burning oven, which seems to accommodate exactly one pizza. When it was done, after about 21/2 minutes, Calderon himself hefted the pie and strode into the dining area to find the party that ordered it. Then, he returned to his work station and slipped another pie into the empty oven.
After 45 minutes, our pizza arrived, and the first bites were excellent. Within minutes, however, things went south. As it cooled, the crust became unpleasantly soggy. Were the cheese and tomato sauce toppings too wet? Did the dough lack structure? The memory of those first bites will lure me back to Sorrento's, and I'll see if I have better luck.
Sorrento's is at 255 W. Park Ave., Long Beach, 516-889-4800. -- ERICA MARCUS
EL SALVADORAN EXCELLENCE
It was a tip from a savvy reader that steered me to Deli La Union, a little El Salvadoran eatery in East Northport that's been open about four months.
The counter-service spot has several tables, most of which were occupied the afternoon I stopped in. Overhead, a TV played a Spanish-language soap opera. Behind the counter was a steam table, but the tacos and pupusas I opted for were made to order in the kitchen.
I tried two kinds of pupusas, or stuffed cornmeal cakes -- one with cheese and the other with a mixture of pork and cheese. Both were lush and satisfying. Accompaniments were a bright slaw and hot sauce. At $1.50 apiece, these pupusas were a steal. There also was a trio of soft corn tacos ($7), two topped with carnitas, or crisp bits of pork with onion and cilantro, and the other with moist, softly shredded spiced chicken breast. A runaway hit.
Deli La Union is at 246B Larkfield Rd., East Northport, 631-623-6391. -- JOAN REMINICK