With Branzinos Bar & Restaurant, James Villani aims to bring a little coastal flavor to landlocked Huntington Station. The menu of modern Italian classics is particularly strong on seafood: thyme-roasted scallops, salmon with butternut squash, halibut with saffron risotto and fire-roasted shrimp among the selections — as well as the eponymous branzino, both whole and as pan-seared fillets with fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, celery root, artichoke and lemon-saffron sauce.
Villani, who owns the restaurant with his cousin, John Parente, is also the proprietor (with his wife, Tiffany Dugan) of Riverfish Grill, on the Nautical Mile in Freeport.
“The Freeport restaurant is so seasonal,” he said, “I was looking for a second location that was more ‘inland,’ something that would be small and manageable.” What made him drop anchor just across from Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station? His cousin works in the area and his daughter goes to dance school up the road. "There were a lot of places around here for lunch, not so many for dinner," he said.
Dugan, Villani’s wife, transformed the spot that had been Milito’s into a polished, inviting space, with lots of dark wood and brass accents. (Milito’s, which closed last year, had originally been known as Emilio’s when it opened in 2015. It replaced La Spada, established 2007.)
Running the kitchen is chef Alex Neyra, formerly of Waterzooi in Garden City, who, Villani said, will be expanding the menu in the spring to include mussel pots, paella and ceviche.
For now, his starters (most $14 to $16) include grilled octopus with arugula, celery root and white-bean salad, clams oreganata, Wagyu meatballs with Parmesan, spinach-artichoke rice balls and house-rubbed chicken wings. Pastas ($25 to $34) include pappardelle Bolognese, linguine and clams, lobster paccheri with fennel and tomatoes. Among non-fish entrees ($27 to $29) are chicken Parm over linguine, Berkshire pork chop with butternut-bacon hash browns and braised short ribs. Steaks can top $40. There’s also a raw bar.
Branzinos is open for lunch and dinner every day.
315 Walt Whitman Rd., Huntington Station, 631-944-3141, branzinos.com.