Siblings Al and Nancy Zilla share culinary roots that go back to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, where their family owned a few pizzerias. With Al as chef and Nancy as manager-hostess, they've brought to Syosset their pizza and pasta traditions, along with a few innovations. This summer, they expanded Bronx Pizza Company, adding a full dining room to what started out as a pizzeria-bar. There are 17 beers on tap, among them some craft brews. They're a better choice than the wine.
The staple here is pizza, plain and fancy. A commendable 12-inch Margherita pie had a crunchy crust and bright tomato sauce-fresh mozzarella topping. Zilla speaks proudly of his sea salt-crusted vodka sauce pizza. It's offbeat but curiously winning, its creamy topping offset by the salty rim. My favorite: the simple cheese pie with a lightly charred crust and molten mozzarella topping.
Zilla bakes the restaurant's bread and rolls in the pizza oven. Mini rolls form the base of a trio of sliders, one with savory, light-textured meatballs, another with a feisty sausage and pepper mix, and the third featuring meltingly good chicken Parm. Home-style stuffed mushrooms were a better choice than grilled calamari -- essentially, garlicky rubber bands. But Zilla's summer salad -- nothing more than arugula with shaved Parmesan, toasted almonds and a lemon vinaigrette -- was a refreshing eye-opener.
Al dente pasta and fresh whole littlenecks comprised the successful linguine with white clam sauce. Eggplant Parmesan was light and bright, but spaghetti with turkey meatballs was undermined by overcooked pasta and under-seasoned meatballs. Whole-wheat penne primavera, like the vegetable lasagna, was made with a mix of zucchini, spinach, broccoli and mushrooms -- both nice and healthy, if a bit boring.
Ground turkey, spinach and black pepper went into the moist and well-seasoned turkey burger. Both Zilla's hand-cut fries and nutty-smoky sweet potato fries get extra points. So, too, does the skillfully grilled salmon with crisp-tender garlicky broccoli.
Best to forgo the commercially baked chocolate cake and cheesecake, neither worthy of the calories. Perhaps, down the road, Zilla will start making his own finales. No question, the guy knows how to get the most out of a pizza oven.