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Cafe Capriccio in Port Washington

The second tier of dining space fills up

The second tier of dining space fills up at Cafe Capriccio in Port Washington. (Sept. 17, 2011) Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

Cafe Capriccio, the latest improvisation by Elio Sobrero, is a restaurant both nostalgic and new.

You'll remember the chef-owner from La Primavera in East Hills and Capriccio in Jericho, two Italian-continental landmarks that once defined high-end dining on Long Island. Recently, Sobrero operated a family-style eatery with the Capriccio name in Hicksville.

This new enterprise, which comfortably combines a bit of each establishment, is across the street from the Long Island Rail Road station, at the site that marked the last stop for Montebello, also an Italian kitchen.

Cafe Capriccio brightens a two-tier dining room with light, polite neutral hues. You'll find images of gondolas and the Colosseum, mini-statues suggesting ancient days, and an easy-listening Sinatra soundtrack.

The surprises are few, and the regulars don't mind. Let others sharpen the cutting edge. Cafe Capriccio, dependable and relaxed, thinks the '80s were pretty good.

THE BEST

Sobrero's standards include well-made mezze rigatoni Bolognese and tortellini alla panna; creamy buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes, red peppers and red onion; and slightly smoky grilled vegetables centered on a portobello mushroom cap. Enjoy a salad: Caesar; endive; tricolor; bianca, with fennel and hearts of palm plus endive; or a special one that adds pear and orange to good greens. Have your prosciutto di Parma either with melon or Parmesan cheese. Then, consider either the gray sole in a mellow sauce of vermouth and cream; or the risk-averse branzino, better than most, finished with olive oil and herbs. Sobrero's ever-popular duck arrives with cherry sauce. His sirloin steak au poivre is a rich one, detonating with every bite. Crisp and tender pork chop Milanese highlights a fixed-price menu. Sobrero's dessert repertoire keeps the tall, puffy meringue bombé, a floating island the size of Sardinia; and its dense, decadent, low-slung counterpoint, the "chocolate velvet" cake first tasted at La Primavera. Excellent strawberry tart, too.

THE REST

Overdone clams oreganata and eggplant Parmigiana, too-sweet chicken with chestnuts, same vegetable still-life with nearly all main courses, decaf tiramisu.

THE BOTTOM LINE

September song.

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