From Long Island's first four-star Japanese restaurant to a re-invigorated continental spot, Nassau and Suffolk diners were treated to a very good year. Here are critic Peter M. Gianotti's best Fine Dining restaurants of 2014.
Be-Ju Sashimi & Sake Bar
Be-Ju Sashimi & Sake Bar (400 Broadhollow Rd./Route 110, Melville): Situated inside Jewel restaurant, in what had been a Cognac-and-cigars room, is Long Island's finest Japanese restaurant: serene, subtle, sensational -- and the direct opposite of the glittery spectacles with overwrought rolls. The restless Tom Schaudel, who cooks at Jewel, too, joins with Shigeki Uchiyama and Hiroki Tanii. Recommended: all sashimi and sushi (wasabi tobiko, pictured), especially fatty tuna; paté-style monkfish liver; shrimp-and-sea urchin risotto; a kaleidoscopic lobster roll tuna tataki with black truffle; Lapsang Souchong tea-smoked salmon. And outstanding sake.
Pentimento (93 Main St., Stony Brook): In summer, owner-chef Dennis Young turned over the kitchen of his three-star restaurant to Massimo Fedozzi, who'd earned accolades at the now-gone Palio in Jericho and Vero in Amityville. And Fedozzi's regional Italian cooking, small plates to sweets, is terrific. Recommended: caponata, polenta fries, rice balls, sliders, tortelli packed with roasted butternut squash, Piedmontese veal-stuffed agnolotti del plin (pictured), grilled filet mignon with seared foie gras and black truffle, chocolate tart, torta di ricotta with pear compote, red-wine poached pear.
The Trattoria (532 North Country Rd., St. James): Chef Steven Gallagher bought Kitchen A Trattoria, renamed it and improved on an already excellent Italian restaurant. The tiny, BYO, no-credit-cards space is all about the food. Gallagher's menu changes daily. Recommended: Ribollita, vegetable soup enriched with chicken; tomato-braised meatballs with polenta; smoky-sweet spaghetti all'Amatriciana; superrich bucatini alla carbonara; paccheri in a suckling pig ragù; five-layer lasagna Bolognese; loin of pork with rye gnocchi; beef brasato; a two-tier, vanilla-chocolate crème brûlée. (Pictured: brasato of beef with polenta.)
Moonstone (14 Northern Blvd., Great Neck): Just when you thought the end of Chinese cuisine here was imminent, Moonstone arrives. Sleek and contemporary, bright and handsome, it brings back flavors long missing between Flushing and Montauk. Recommended: Shanghai-style soup dumplings; chicken-and-Chinese chives dumplings; noodles in sesame-peanut sauce; hoisin-glazed bacon sliders; "kung fu" halibut in a Sichuan-style mala sauce; kung pao monkfish with chilies, leeks and peanuts; citrus-flavor crisp beef; eggplant in garlic sauce; and a memorable, one-course Beijing duck. (Pictured: sanpei chicken claypot with Chinese sausage and cloud ear mushrooms.)
Caci North Fork
Caci North Fork (56125 Main Rd./Route 25, Southold): Finding Caci North Fork is like locating a truffle. Chef Marco Pellegrini and owners Anthony and Daniele Cacioppo have fashioned a dining destination, attuned to the seasons, spare in design and intricate in the kitchen. Recommended: Tagiolini with shavings of white truffle; potato gnocchi, either with Gorgonzola cheese, radicchio, walnuts and a balsamic-vinegar sauce (pictured), or all'Amatriciana; pappardelle Bolognese; lightly simmered, soupy seafood guazzetto; striped bass alla cacciatora; strip steak; wine-poached Bartlett pear.
Petulant Wino (739 Main Rd./Route 25, Aquebogue): Tom Schaudel makes the list twice, here as co-owner of an inviting small-plates bistro and wine bar with his daughter, Courtney. Polished and streamlined, Petulant Wino has a little glow, offers a lot of big flavors from chef Lenny Campanelli. Recommended: lemongrass-poached shrimp with green-tea soba noodles, fluke and striped bass crudo, grilled oysters with spicy mayonnaise, grilled cheese mini-sandwich with short rib and pickled onion, roasted pork belly with pickled rhubarb, chipotle-braised duck taco (pictured), warm fig cake with salted caramel gelato.
Cafe Testarossa (499 Jericho Tpke., Syosset): Chef-owner Billy Sansone has put pedal-to-the-metal at Cafe Testarossa, which has been humming for decades, never better than now. He combines Italian and New American cuisines with flair. Recommended: Pan-seared halibut with lemon zest-breadcrumb crust and citrus beurre blanc; pork chop with roasted fennel, cherry peppers and butternut squash risotto; pici pasta Toscana with spicy sausage and veal Bolognese; spaghetti with superior meatballs; meatball sliders (pictured); fluke crudo; tuna crudo and tuna tartare; flourless chocolate-hazelnut cake.
Ristegio's (641 Rte. 112, North Patchogue): Chef Richard Lanza, who starred at Blackstone Steakhouse in Melville, returns to his old neighborhood with a sprawling, ambitious, eclectic restaurant. It's also marked by first-rate service, under general manager Andy Kormendi. Recommended: refined lobster bisque; Nueske's bacon, beans, tomato, pomegranate molasses and brown sugar stew (pictured); four-cheese stuffed pasta Bolognese; pan-seared Montauk yellowfin tuna; traditional sushi and sashimi; artful cheesecake; and Greek yogurt panna cotta with "brûléed" figs.
La Marmite (234 Hillside Ave., Williston Park): Remember La Marmite? You will now. The embodiment of vintage continental cuisine has been updated and enlivened by new chef Greg Kearns, who prepares seasonal menus. The gracious service continues, overseen by Manuel Gomes, who arrived four decades ago, when the original place did. Recommended: roasted lobster with creamy morel sauce, snap peas and English pea puree (pictured); pan-seared red snapper with orange beurre blanc, duck breast with candied kumquat, grilled octopus with chickpea salad, and the house's rendition of gâteau Saint-Honoré.
Grotta di Fuoco
Grotta di Fuoco (960 W. Beech St., Long Beach): Dining out is ignited with soulful cooking, combining accents New American and Southern Italian, from chef-owner Andrew Allotti. The sub-street dining room has an industrial, exposed-brick, filament-lit look. The centerpiece is the wood-burning oven. Recommended: Pizzas, fettuccine alla carbonara; a version of cacciucco, the Livornese fish stew; tuna crudo; eggplant fries with Calabrian chilies; baccalá, or salt cod, alla puttanesca (pictured); olive-oil cake with raspberry jam and sorbet; steamed chocolate brownie with limoncello granita.