79° Good Afternoon
79° Good Afternoon

Cucina di Vargas, Hewlett: First bites

The chopped Italian salad at Cucina di Vargas

The chopped Italian salad at Cucina di Vargas in Hewlett harbors salami and provolone. (April, 2013) Credit: Newsday Joan Reminick

The new Cucina di Vargas enlivens the Five Towns dining scene with a brand of family-style Italian dining that's big on both quality and value.

At dinner recently, one taste of chef Narciso Vargas' crisp, nutty, highly addictive fried zucchini ($8.95) was followed by another and then another.  A half order of the shards was enough for four. So, too, was a half order of the very good chopped Italian salad with salami and provolone ($10.95), considerately pre-divided into individual bowls. While the meaty sauce in the penne Bolognese ($11.95, half order) hadn’t been lightened with cream, as a proper Bolognese demands, it was, nonetheless, vibrant and satisfying. So, too, was the chicken scarpariello ($17.95 half order), here interpreted to mean garlicky pieces of roasted chicken.

I observed a good amount of table hopping at the restaurant. Clearly,  Vargas — who, for many years helmed Hewlett’s now-departed Matteo’s — has accrued a loyal following. Diners also seemed on familiar terms with a crew that went out of its way to make newcomers feel welcome.

Cucina di Vargas is at 12 Franklin Ave., Hewlett, 516-596-7260.

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