The easiest way to start an argument is to criticize someone's favorite restaurant.
So, I won't pick a fight with Billy Joel.
The songwriter who gave us "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant," says in an interview with Newsday's Glenn Gamboa that his current Italian faves include Serata in Oyster Bay, Luce in East Norwich and Sant Ambroeus in Southampton.
Joel says that he stays "pretty local."
Just be glad he didn't stick with Christiano's in Syosset, long-assumed to be the inspiration for "Scenes" since he used it as an applause line.
But, if Richard Wagner could prefer Caffe Quadri to Caffe Florian, Joel is entitled to his choices, too.
Luce's basic appeal includes cavatelli Bolognese and seafood salad; Serata's, meatballs and salad, plus linguine with clam sauce. So go to Serata for your appetizer, Luce for your main course and Sant Ambroeus for dessert, specifically gelati.
They all earned two stars. Luce's food trumped the restaurant's sometimes haughty attitude. Serata made up for shortcomings with the heartier stuff and unpretentious ways. Sant Ambroeus still seduces mainly with sweets.
You can't blame Joel, given his close-to-home preferences. In East Norwich, Luce finds its only competition from Angelina's. And in Oyster Bay, the closest competitor must be Cafe Al Dente. Not much to argue about unless you factor in pizzerias. The rivers of marinara and carbonara have few tributaries in these neighborhoods.
Sant Ambroeus is very Hamptonian, in style and price. I recommend visiting mainly for those gelati, available at the counter in the front. If you're in the dining room, the best dishes are carpaccio and risotti. In Southampton, the Italian-style alternatives are Tuscan House and La Parmigiana.
So, I'll just suggest that Long Island's own piano man add a few miles.Try the pasta at 18 Bay on Shelter Island and Robert's in Water Mill. Visit, or revisit, Trattoria Diane in Roslyn and Stresa in Manhasset.
And, of course, don't retire.
Gelati at Sant Ambroeus.