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First bite: Uncle Bacala's in Smithtown

You could call this first chew. Early on, dining at Uncle Bacala's eastern branch is tough.

The offspring of the Garden City Park eatery is overdone in almost everything except the decor. It's a spare, neutral-hued space, where currently the service is as polite as it is uneven.

The real problem, however, is on the plate. Hot antipasto: leaden and dull. Mozzarella in carrozza: dark brown and dry. You could play tennis with the fried meatballs. And peach ravioli just define "bad concept." The kitchen does a little better with broiled cod in a bread-crumb crust, finished with a sauce of olives, tomatoes and capers.

But, overall, the newcomer needs some seasoning to rival its Nassau relative.

Uncle Bacala's, 368 Middle Country Rd., Smithtown; 631-265-2300.

Uncle Bacala's in Garden City Park.

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