After seeing a flier about a takeout family dinner at Cirella’s in Melville, a pal and I decided it was high time to pay the restaurant a lunch visit. The place had been off the radar far too long.
A new midday menu featured pared-down portions of dinner items, plus a few specials. From that list, we ordered a "thin crusted" whole-wheat pizza with chicken meatballs. Big mistake. For one thing, the crust was thick and dense — laborious to chew. For another, the chicken sausage was dry. No problem with the hearty tomato sauce, though. Then, there was a spinach salad with pancetta, artichoke hearts (the jarred variety), red onion and shaved Parmesan. There was hardly any pancetta, and the whole thing was virtually swimming in a sharply acidic vinaigrette supposedly made with Dijon mustard (no mustard flavor was evident).
Rescuing all was the house lasagna, an Italian classic layering of dried pasta, Bolognese sauce, sausage, mozzarella and ricotta in a very good tomato sauce, an enormous basil leaf on top.
Distinguishing Cirella's from most other Italian restaurants on Long Island: a sushi menu. Which means you can have a rainbow roll followed by rigatoni.
Now, for the takeout special. It's $30, is meant to feed four generously and includes a choice of a house or Caesar salad, bread and garlic knots plus a choice of one of the following entrees: rigatoni Bolognese, spaghetti and meatballs, penne primavera, ravioli with either tomato, vodka or marinara sauce, eggplant Parmigiana or chicken — either Parmigiana, Marsala, Francaise or fagioli (grilled chicken with escarole and beans in garlic broth). To order, call ahead and let the restaurant know what time you want to pick your dinner up.
Cirella's is at 14 Broadhollow Rd., Melville, 631-385-7380.
Above: Whole-wheat pizza with chicken meatballs at Cirella's