Into a Glen Cove storefront that has previously housed Peruvian and Italian contenders, comes a Euro-style restaurant named for a French garlic mayonnaise. Has its gracious Ecuadorean-born owner, Segundo Guillcatanda, found the staying power that eluded his predecessors?
He does have impressive chef cred, having done stints at the Russian Tea Room in Manhattan and Cafe Buenos Aires in Huntington. Here, he commands the dining room, leaving the cooking in the hands of executive chef Juan Lima.
I'm wowed by one appetizer, tender baby octopus, sauteed and served over a potato, string bean and frisee salad - and just as impressed with another, clam and chorizo in a zesty garlic-butter sauce. Shrimp, marine-sweet and perfectly sauteed, come with a lively avocado salsa.
One night, I order half a roasted chicken with tarragon sauce. I'm a bit wary, since one can never assume a half chicken has bones and dark meat. But this bird has it all, in addition to a crisp exterior and moist, tender meat, both white and dark. Al dente linguini with clams, mussels shrimp and calamari features more seafood than al dente pasta in a very good garlic and oil sauce.
At lunch, a filet of basa (a mild white fish) works well with a sprightly lemon caper sauce; it's plated with addictive mashed potatoes and a colorful (if trite) mix of nicely cooked vegetables. Those same vegetables, along with roasted potatoes, accompany a hyper-savory skirt steak, which is rare, as ordered.
Crackly crusted crème brûlée makes an appropriate finale.
The kitchen can be slow, making for long waits between courses.
An appetizer of mussels in white wine and garlic sauce features puny, flavorless crustaceans; a lunch pasta special of fettuccine with shrimp in marinara sauce has overcooked pasta drowning in sauce. Tiramisu is way too sweet.
Consider a leisurely midday meal, where you won't spend more than $15 for any entree - even steak.
Café Aioli is located at 63 Glen St., Glen Cove, 516-671-3132