Da Gigi Trattoria & Bar
174 Merrick Rd., Lynbrook
SERVICE: Warm and welcoming
AMBIENCE: Your own social club
ESSENTIALS: Open for dinner six days, starting at 5 p.m., closed Monday. Weekend reservations recommended; major credit cards accepted; wheelchair accessible, ramp at entrance.
Honor thy pasta.
Da Gigi Trattoria & Bar does, in a clubby, compact, low-ceiling dining room, a dark-hued, frills-free space, with tables and a bar, TV tuned to sports, attached to a catering hall.
It’s an unlikely destination.
But, bringing an authentic taste of Italy to a commercial strip in the village, it’s where you should eat tonight, tomorrow and maybe next week, too. Come hungry.
Da Gigi is the meticulous handiwork of chef-owner Pierluigi Sacchetti, nicknamed Gigi; and, at least through September, chef Nicola Schioppo, who’s here on holiday from his restaurant in Florence, Cipolla Rossa Osteria.
The new spot benefits from the front-of-the-house skills of Freddy Sammarone, also an accomplished chef, who made the now-departed Ciao Bella! in Hewlett earn its exclamation point.
They give Da Gigi a personality that’s friendly, familial, festive. On a recent Saturday night, it felt like a dozen parties poised to become one.
The tone is set by Sammarone. And the mood is fueled by boards of cured meats and cheeses, followed by antipasti, those singular pastas, and a few main courses. Mix and match. Pace yourself.
Fiery ’nduja, the spreadable Calabrian salumi, will jump-start your appetite, as does the herbaceous porchetta, for the flavor of Rome. Prosciutto di Parma, dry salami, hot coppa and speck continue the tour. Complement them with buffalo ricotta drizzled with honey.
Next, stellar antipasti take in tender, well-seasoned octopus paired with cubed potatoes and cherry tomatoes; small, sauteed soft-shell crabs to remind you of Venice, accented with lemon, resting on spinach; and peppery baby arugula topped with crisp zucchini flowers, fava beans and truffled pecorino cheese. Sacchetti’s eggplant alla Parmigiana is light, not buried in mozzarella, and precisely what you might expect to find in Parma.
But, now, to pasta.
A special of cappellacci, a relative of ravioli folded to mimic a hat, alights filled with burrata and ground pistachio, arranged six in a row, sauced with delicate stracchino cheese. It’s sensational.
That soothing selection may be balanced by the electric wake-up call of bucatini entangled with crumbled ’nduja, finished with tomato sauce and caciocavallo cheese, akin to mozzarella gone wild. Subtle, tender, and airy: saffron gnocchi with crab and shrimp in a lush rose-wine sauce.
Continue l’avventura with invigorating spaghetti tossed with Pecorino Romano, black pepper and guanciale; or with a supremely creamy special of spaghetti alla carbonara.
Pappardelle in a Tuscan-style meat sauce; strozzapreti, which evoke stretched-out cavatelli in a veal ragu; and paccheri, similar to mega-rigatoni, in a cherry tomato sauce with dried buffalo mozzarella and zucchini flowers, all are terrific.
At this point, you may be tempted simply to relax with an espresso. But before giving in, sample the vivid pan-seared, red Sicilian shrimp, on cannellini beans and arugula, dusted with pistachio crumbs.
Even branzino has more to it than the countless preparations of the ever-present Mediterranean sea bass. Here, the fish is baked in parchment, with olives, tomatoes, potatoes and Manila clams. You can skip the standard veal Milanese and the pan-seared stuffed pork roulade.
Recent desserts: dense, addictive, flourless chocolate logs with cream, and an ultrarich, eggy, elegantly presented tiramisu.
There’s an Italian expression, “la festa e quando viene.” Or the feast is when it comes. It has.