If you've been to Berto's in Valley Stream, chances are you've met restaurateur Umberto Atania, who makes it a point to stop by every table to ask how the meal is going.
His concern sets the tone here; what comes across is a sense that everyone involved with making and serving the food truly cares.
A princely Caesar salad features Romaine lightly coated with a lemon-accented dressing both zesty and mellow. Clams Posillipo are briny-fresh, bathed in a savory tomato-garlic-wine mixture.
I'm excited to see grilled calamari on the menu, but the salty, fishy squid I get makes me say, "Throw it back."
I'm able to use my fork to cut the veal parmigiana, cloaked in a lush meld of mozzarella and vibrant tomato sauce. Better still is "pollo country style," bone-in chicken with sausage and potatoes in an herbal garlic-lemon-olive oil sauce.
Just the right touch of garlic infuses the linguine with white clam sauce. A lush and meaty penne Bolognese makes for satisfying eating indeed.
Love Berto's gnocchi Sorrentino, meltingly light potato semolina dumplings tossed with tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil.
And how many Long Island places feature timballo, the macaroni pie made famous in the movie "Big Night"? Berto's does the dome-shaped dish with eggplant, penne, marinara and meat sauce, peas, mozzarella and Pecorino. It's oh so good - big enough to serve one very hungry eater but ample enough for two to share.
House-made desserts include an airy tiramisu and light Italian cheesecake.
MONEY SAVING TIPS
Dinner appetizers and desserts can easily be shared. And a three-course lunch deal ($11.95 to $15.95) amounts to a veritable steal.
What's in a name? Ask Umberto
If your dream is to open a restaurant anywhere in the United States, better not name it something that's been federally trademarked.
Trademark registration is serious business, says Jeffrey Look, an attorney at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va. There is, he says, "presumption of national exclusivity."
Restaurateur Umberto Atania learned the rules the hard way two years ago, when he named his Valley Stream Italian restaurant Umberto's. This past November, after hearing from lawyers for Umberto's of New Hyde Park, Atania changed the sign out front to read "Berto's Family Ristorante Italiano."
Almost as famous for its lawsuits as its pasta is Patsy's Restaurant in Manhattan's Theater District. Back in 2005, a Kings Park restaurant almost opened under the name of Patsy's. The threat of a legal action resulted in a new name: Ciro's 107.
Patsy's Pizzeria, which opened in Syosset in 2006, went head to head in court with Patsy's Restaurant. In 2008, the pizzeria won the right to keep its name - so long as it used its full name, to differentiate itself from Patsy's Restaurant.
Berto's Family Ristorante Italiano is located at 31 Rockaway Ave., Valley Stream, 516-825-2117, bertosrestaurant.com