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Tapas star at Cafe Mendoza in Commack: First Bites

Peppers stuffed with crabmeat are served at Cafe

Peppers stuffed with crabmeat are served at Cafe Mendoza in Commack. March 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday/ Peter Gianotti

In Long Island's year of tapas, Cafe Mendoza in Commack is the newest star.

This excellent restaurant, tucked in a very modest shopping center, is a compact version of the three-star Cafe Buenos Aires in Huntington. Hugo Garcia deftly oversees both, plus cozy Bistro Cassis in Huntington.

The overhaul of the spot is nearly complete, from polished wood floor to embossed ceiling, erasing almost any trace of Mannino's, the former occupant, which moved to bigger quarters on Jericho Turnpike. Now, you'll find evocative images of Argentine wine country, the tango and the cuisine.

You'll enjoy full-flavored small plates as well as substantial main courses, some that will be familiar to diners who've eaten at the other restaurants operated by Garcia and partner Fabio Machado.

Standouts early on: appetizing crabmeat-stuffed peppers; savory sauteed chickpeas with spicy sausage; patatas bravas spurred by smoked applewood bacon, jalapenos and chipotle aioli; rich spinach gnocchi with bay scallops in a shiitake mushroom cream sauce; lush, braised pork belly with nuggets of roasted sweet potato, dates and figs in a Port reduction; and a diverting mango flan.

Cafe Mendoza also offers a serious Cuban sandwich; and an exceptional, tender grilled rib-eye steak. There's a well-chosen selection of Argentine wines, befitting the restaurant's name.

Go with a group. Order as much as you can.

Cafe Mendoza, 169 Commack Rd., Commack; 631-486-8848.

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