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Four-star Italian restaurant Benny's closes in Westbury

Bucatini con le sarde, thick pasta with sardines,

Bucatini con le sarde, thick pasta with sardines, fennel and raisins, was a favorite at Benny's Ristorante in Westbury, now closed.  Credit: Johnny Simon

Benny's Ristorante in Westbury, for decades one of Long Island's best Italian restaurants, has closed.

Owner Benny DiPietro said that his age, coupled with major illnesses in the family, prompted the decision. "I'm 86 years old," DiPietro said. "Fifteen hours a day, I can't do anymore."

He said he was saddened about the closing, but added, "after 32 years, I have no choice." The restaurant shut earlier this week.

Benny's Ristorante opened in 1987 and immediately earned a three-star rating in Newsday. It was elevated to four stars in 1995, and kept the highest rating when last reviewed in 2013.

In addition to the exceptional food, which went from the Alps to Sicily; and the décor, which developed a patina, the restaurant was known for the ever-present, ever-watchful DiPietro.

Without Benny, there could be no Benny's. "I have to be here," he said. A gracious and friendly host, he'd intently oversee the dining room and the kitchen, and be on the lookout for anything that needed to be improved, while making the rounds, visiting each table to deliver whatever a diner desired.

The cuisine was highlighted by regional Italian specialties, including the Sicilian classic of bucatini con le sarde, with sardines, raisins, pine nuts, toasted breadcrumbs, and fennel from DiPietro's garden; Sicilian caponata of eggplant, salad of blood oranges and fennel, and zabaglione; Roman pasta alla carbonara and spiedino finished with a caper-and-anchovy sauce; osso buco with bone marrow, mushroom risotto, and grilled polenta with Gorgonzola and mushrooms that evoked Piedmont and Lombardy; and vibrant red snapper Livornese.

Eggplant a la Benny was a wry riff on eggplant rollatini, this version stuffed with goat's milk ricotta and buttery strands of capellini. Sometimes, there would be contemporary, cross-border fare such as grilled tuna with pineapple-and-tomato salsa or sturgeon in a sesame-seed crust with ginger and lemongrass; or a rustic plate of either vividly sauced salt-cod cakes or tripe. 

The delectable cheesecake and biscotti were Mrs. DiPietro's recipes. The wine cellar ranged widely and deeply. Limoncello was made in-house.

Benny's Ristorante was at 199 Post Ave., Westbury.

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