Richard Desmond is a chef who's made a name for himself both cooking and singing. The operatic tenor, who bears some resemblance to the late Pavarotti, has headed kitchens at such places as Bliss in East Setauket and Public House 49 in Patchogue. These days, he may emerge from the kitchen of this modest-looking pizza-pasta house to serenade you. Even if he doesn't, chances are, you'll hear his voice ring out from the back.
Up front, you won't find much in the way of ambience at Fargiano's. While there's table service, seating is for only 16. Red and white checked tablecloths are plastic, as are utensils; dinnerware is melamine. What diverts your attention from all this is a chef with skill, passion — and, at times, a penchant for excess. But be prepared for lags between courses.
A gratis bowl of Desmond's signature basil hummus comes with little pesto-garlic toasts — perhaps, too much of a good thing, since you also get garlic knots and pepperoni pinwheels. These courtesy of owner Chris Fargiano, who also produces a fine Neapolitan pizza. And a creditable Chicago pan pie.
The rich, fragrant eggplant basil bisque, though, is Desmond's own. So, too, the deeply herbal spinach soup floating delicate Parmesan dumplings, along with little meatballs.
Fargiano's good, garlicky meatballs show up over spaghetti in a slightly sweet tomato sauce. Then, there's Desmond's delectable meat lasagna, made with pasta rolled out by hand. A boatload of tiny clams, out of their shells, comes from a nearby fish market. They make for a fine version of linguine with white clam sauce. But chicken Francese, while lemony, features cutlets a bit too thick. And in the case of Desmond's special of herb-crusted cod, the lovely fish is weighed down and blanketed by tomatoes and herbs. On the other hand, the bucatini in tomato sauce served on the side is ideal.
Desmond aces dessert. His pumpkin tiramisu with drifts of freshly whipped cream is boozy, airy and autumnal. Also in sync with the season: an irresistible apple caramel bread pudding. Black and white chocolate torte is a sweet perennial.