There are more Italian restaurants on Long Island than you'll find in many cities outside Rome. It's easily the favorite cuisine in Nassau and Suffolk. And that doesn't include the dedication of LIers to their pizza, either. Most places have southern influences, but plenty of northern Italian restaurants also thrive.
These restaurants are recommended by Peter M. Gianotti and Joan Reminick. Mangia bene.
Nick & Toni's
Nick & Toni's, East Hampton: The ultimate hot spot and celebrity magnet is this sharp restaurant under chef Joseph Realmuto. Stylish, as you'd expect, and infinitely better than it has to be, Nick & Toni's makes everyone boldface. The notable dishes include penne alla vecchia bettola, in a spicy oven-roasted tomato sauce; ricotta gnocchi with broccoli rabe and Gorgonzola; sardines in Venetian-style agrodolce; wood-oven-roasted Berkshire pork chop; and savory vegetable-and-goat-cheese terrine (pictured).
Sant Ambroeus, Southampton: The menu at this posh spot is simple Italian, and there's no denying the quality of food prepared. On the menu: carpaccio di manzo (pictured), a salad of arugula with sliced Parmesan and fettuccine Bolognese. And definitely save room for gelato.
Ristorante Da Claudio
Ristorante Da Claudio, Glen Cove: The name has changed (most recently, it was, simply, Claudio's), but the spacious dining room with high ceilings remains. Of the starters, try the silky sheaves of house-cured salmon carpaccio, the tender grilled octopus or the satisfying pasta e fagioli. Of the entrees, the seafood shines: the hefty, whole orata, or gilthead sea bream (pictured), is outstanding; filleted tableside, snowy within, branzino, or sea bass, benefits from a tasty potato crust. A lush mascarpone cheesecake leads the sweets.
Red, Huntington: Reopened after a fire in March 2014 claimed the entire space, the popular spot combines Italian and New American fare. Try its cavatelli Bolognese; Painted Hills strip steak with Gorgonzola demi-glace and duck-fat fries; braised Berkshire pork belly; and seared sea scallops (pictured).
Tuscan House, Southampton: Open year-round, this upscale Italian eatery features catering and cooking classes, and offers lunch and dinner seven days a week. On the menu: pappardelle diavolo, gnocchi Toscano and farfalle San Biagio.
Abeetza Next Door
Abeetza Next Door, Greenvale: This modern, sit-down restaurant is the hearty offspring of the popular, adjoining Abeetza Pizza. Here, chef-owner Joseph DeLorenzo builds on the original with fired-up "angry shrimp" in spicy red sauce; flatbread with Gorgonzola, prosciutto, arugula and fig puree; chicken Milanese; rigatoni Bolognese; and pasta-free zucchini lasagna (pictured).
La Cucina, Hewlett: Owned by Luigi Muto, who also operates the neighboring Alfie's II pizza spot, La Cucina is a sleek sliver of a restaurant decorated with colorful abstract paintings. Chef Peter Curcio puts on quite a show, preparing first-rate pastas and starters. Favorites include oven-roasted rack of lamb, risotto croquettes and chicken scarpariello.
Mannino's, Commack: A sprawling, two-story affair, the third (and largest) Mannino's on Long Island has a very big appetite. Few prepare Italian-American favorites as well as Mannino's. Winners include grilled octopus tossed with endive, celery and roasted peppers (pictured); baked clams oreganata; cavatelli with olive oil and garlic; and orecchiette alla Barese.
Spezia, St. James: Full-flavored food at the bright, warm and satisfying Spezia. Recommendations include the meat-filled lasagna; grilled polenta with sauteed mushrooms, shrimp and tomatoes; stuffed double-cut pork chop (pictured); and eggplant rollatine.
Tony Colombos Italian Bistro
Tony Colombos Italian Bistro, Rockville Centre: A joint effort between chef Tony Colombo, formerly of Cirella’s in Melville, and Art Gustafson, chef-owner of Chadwicks American Chophouse & Bar near the Rockville Centre railroad station, this buoyant restaurant is full of satisfying choices. Recommended: spaghetti and meatballs, rice balls, beef braciola (pictured), pappardelle alla Bolognese, and lasagna.
Riviera Grill, Glen Cove: This Italian eatery provides old-fashioned service and satisfying food. Favorite dishes include rigatoni alla Bolognese, broiled branzino, and classic pesto on pappardelle (pictured).
Mario, Hauppauge: The wolf that nursed Romulus and Remus is the symbol of Mario’s, the leading Italian spot on Hauppauge’s restaurant row. Try the mozzarella in carrozza, ravioli with meat sauce, paglia e fieno, and spaghetti Bolognese. Also notable: capellini with crab-meat sauce (pictured); tripe Neapolitan-style, with red sauce; and the rack of lamb for two. Zabaglione and cheesecake lead the sweets.
Verde Wine Bar and Ristorante
Verde Wine Bar and Ristorante, Deer Park: What started as a Papa Joe's pizzeria was reborn as Verde Bar and Ristorante, a modern restaurant and catering establishment across the street from Tanger Outlets. With updates on Italian-American classics and a few New American forays, it's the perfect place for a tasty, dependable meal. Try the cavatelli trio Bolognese, cod puttanesca (pictured), and roasted chicken stuffed with pancetta and ricotta.
Riella’s Homestyle, Levittown: The family-style restaurant and pizzeria features family recipes from chef and co-owner Jimmy Giaccone. On the menu: fried calamari (pictured), baked clams, eggplant Parmigiana and chicken scarpariello.
Vittorio's, Amityville: Whether out for a business lunch or a full dinner, the kitchen at Vittorio’s offers many upscale plates and possibilities. Try the seafood salad, dressed with lemon and olive oil (pictured); veal chop Valdostano, a porterhouse cut that’s filled with prosciutto and mozzarella and dressed with mushroom sauce; and lobster tail encrusted with macadamia nuts and drizzled with mango sauce.
Trattoria Diane, Roslyn: The regional cooking of Rome distinguishes John Durkin's rustic restaurant. Bucatini all'Amatriciana and spaghetti alla carbonara lead the pastas. The vegetable appetizers also are elemental and essential: fried artichokes, fried squash blossoms, grilled zucchini with orange and mint, Brussels sprouts that are almost candied. Roast chicken is juicy; short ribs, tender; orata, light. Don't miss the Tuscan pot roast. All desserts are grand. (Pictured: lamb duo)
Luigi Q, Hicksville: Considered one of Long Island's best Italian restaurants, almost everything here is excellent. The kitchen goes above and beyond with linguine Giovannina, lobster ravioli with black sea bass, and quail with truffled polenta (pictured).
Centro Cucina, Greenvale: Though it seems to be a straightforward shopping-center spot for pizzas, pastas and panini, there is a lot more to this Italian spot than you'd think. Here, there is a counter devoted to seafood, and its grill gets as much use as its brick oven. Favorites include four-cheese pizza (pictured), the Piacenza panini and lobster fra diavolo.
Caci North Fork
Caci North Fork, Southold: This rustic spot has made a lot of noise with its expertly prepared food. Chef Marco Pellegrini's seasonal cooking has included standouts such as airy, delicious potato gnocchi; pappardelle Bolognese with an outstanding meat sauce; and seared duck breast with apple chutney (pictured).
Novita, Garden City: This snappy trattoria is big on wine and has food with flair. On the menu: rigatoni ragu, shrimp with lobster and fregola risotto, and braised lamb shank.
Stresa, Manhasset: Giorgio Meriggi presides over this elegant, gracious, traditional restaurant, where chef Ella Rocca creates very satisfying, polished fare. You'll remember the grilled bistecca alla King, with peppers, onions and mushrooms; savory campagnola soup; spirited bucatini alla Norma; a classic mushroom risotto; gleaming swordfish carpaccio; and unquestionably the finest souffles (chocolate, pictured) on LI.
Nonnina, West Islip: This upscale and opulent restaurant offers authentic Italian cuisine. Favorites include rigatoni with cauliflower and Piave cheese, ricotta gnocchi alla Bolognese, and chicken alla Parmigiana.
18 Bay, Shelter Island: Chefs Elizabeth Ronzetti and Adam Kopels are devoted to the season and the market. At this charming country restaurant, their fare is 'Italian inspired.' The menu is a four-course affair that changes weekly. You may be there for lustrous striped bass crudo, fluke ceviche, fava beans with pecorino cheese and mint, grilled swordfish, goat-cheese cannelloni, cauliflower soup with almond pesto, almond cake, fig cake, peach-and-cherry upside-down cake – all memorable.
Cafe Testarossa, Syosset: With a focus on Italian fare, but with tasty New American twists, recommended dishes include seared swordfish (pictured), pan-seared halibut and poached pear and red beet salad.
Benny's Ristorante, Westbury: Benny DiPietro's restaurant is a family affair and you'll be adopted. This warm establishment, in its third decade, prepares flavor-packed food, both refined and rustic. The essentials include bucatini pasta with sardines, raisins and homegrown fennel (pictured); fettuccine alla carbonara; eggplant rollatine; cod alla Livornese; beef braciola; Gorgonzola-crowned steak; and desserts such as cannoli, zabaglione, biscotti, and Signora DiPietro's lush cheesecake.
Casa Rustica, Casa Rustica has been serving outstanding Italian food since 1986. Mimmo and Benedetto Gambino's refurbished restaurant is comfortable and welcoming. Some of the top dishes include whole fish baked in a salt crust, now usually branzino; lobster risotto (pictured); grilled octopus salad; stuffed artichoke; rice balls; meatballs with ricotta; spaghetti with fava beans, onions, artichokes and peas. The desserts are delectable, especially cannoli and zabaglione.
La Volpe, Center Moriches: One floor up at Fox Hollow, tucked into the sprawling inn and catering complex, is La Volpe. One important reason to visit is lobster Wednesdays, when patrons will find a three-course dinner centered around the Maine mascot, steamed, broiled, stuffed or turned fra diavolo. Also recommended: the fritto misto of shrimp, squid and zucchini; paccheri alla Barese, with broccoli raab and sausage; and rigatoni Siciliana, finished with eggplant, tomato, basil and olive oil. (Pictured: stuffed salmon over spinach)
Grotta di Fuoco
Grotta di Fuoco, Long Beach: Exposed brick and industrial metal steps give this spot a Brooklyn-esque appeal, but it’s the food that will really catch your attention. Favorites include Baccalá alla puttanesca (pictured), tre porcellini pizza and fettuccine alla carbonara.
Matteo’s, Roslyn Heights: One of Nassau’s most-popular spots for casual, family-style Italian dining, Matteo’s features an elegant dining room that’s a harmonious blend of marble, wood and stone. The menu was significantly updated in 2014, though the most popular dishes – including Nonna’s ragu, featuring hunks of short rib, meatballs, sausage and a big slab of ricotta – remain. Top starters include a salad of grilled baby octopus, firm cannellini beans and ripe tomatoes.
Caruso's, Rocky Point: This spacious neighborhood eatery is a destination spot for foodies, skillfully using prime ingredients to bring new meaning to old classics. Try the perfect fried calamari, herbed gnocchi in a Bolognese sauce and pappardelle with roasted clams and spicy sausage ragu (pictured).
Emilio's Restaurant, Commack: This Italian restaurant and bistro is complete with its own take-out counter. Try the pasta e fagioli (pictured), penne alla vodka and baked ziti.
Jonathan's Ristorante, Huntington: Though often crowded, the downtown spot is worth the wait. Favorites include tagliatelle Bolognese, linguine with crabmeat, and the double-cut pork chop served with cipollini, potatoes and artichokes (pictured).
The Trattoria, St. James: Steve Gallagher, the chef at Kitchen A Trattoria, bought the snug restaurant in December. Renamed The Trattoria, it’s on a par with its popular predecessor and sometimes better. Fixed-price menus that change daily are creative and genuine. Winning dishes include Gallagher’s five-layer lasagna, paccheri pasta with a hearty suckling pig ragu, tomato-braised meatballs with polenta, spaghetti all’Amatriciana, pappardelle Bolognese, hake with caponata and salsa verde, squid-ink pasta with calamari (pictured), pork loin with braised cabbage and rye gnocci, and, yes, a superior eggplant alla Parmigiana. Flourless chocolate-almond cake, a two-tier black-and-white crème brulee, and lemon cheesecake to conclude.
La Tavola, Sayville: A warm, country trattoria serving up full-flavored food, this homey eatery delivers authentic fare. Standouts include crudo of yellowfin tuna, Montauk striped bass and gnocchi Bolognese (pictured).
Orto, Miller Place: A sibling to The Trattoria and Kitchen A Bistro in St. James, Orto is a cozy, countrified eatery. The menu changes six times a week, but the quality is consistent. Be sure to try the pork with sunchokes, onions and bacon jus (pictured); raviolo of ricotta; and pork-shoulder ragu.
Pentimento, Stony Brook: The cuisine at this eatery is refined, with a menu featuring both reappearances and new pleasures. Favorites include pan-seared pork chop is paired with braised cabbage (pictured), veal-filled agnolotti del plin, Peconic Bay scallops.
Rialto, Carle Place: Rialto bridges Italian and other continental fare with homey style, in a dining room that reflects earlier decades. Tradition thrives under Mario and Tara Fuentes. Pappardelle alla Bolognese and spaghetti alla carbonara, veal chop Valdostana and chicken scarpariello, braised pork osso buco and swordfish with artichokes and peppers point the way. The Dover sole meunière also is prepared with care. The dessert cart is old-fashioned and very fresh. (Pictured: veal osso bucco)
Mamma Lombardi's, Holbrook: This unpretentious spot stars with soulful dishes. Come here for chicken-and-sausage campagnola, tripe alla Napoletana, pork braciola, lasagna with meat, linguine alla puttanesca, pasta piselli, steak alla pizzaiola.
Verace, Islip: The streamlined look at this dining spot includes a dramatic, barrel-vaulted cieling and multi-level dining room. The food here is satisfying, too, with favorites including spaghetti alla carbonara, lasagna with meat sauce and gnocchi Piedmontese (pictured).
King Umberto, Elmont: This casual restaurant and pizzeria serves up authentic Italian food, including polenta al forno; risotto cakes with Gorgonzola cheese; stuffed artichoke with olives, capers, pine nuts; and delicious cannoli (pictured).
Angelina's II, Syosset: Warm and inviting, Angelina's II is especially strong on pastas. Winning dishes include rigatoni alla vodka, spinach gnocchi in meat sauce and grilled red snapper.
La Ginestra, Glen Cove: Offering reliable, flavorful and very satisfying food, this spot has built a good reputation. Favorites include gnocchi Bolognese, calf's liver Veneziana and red snapper sauteed with onions, pine nuts, raisins and vinegar.