Franina in Syosset is one of Long Island's best Italian restaurants.
Open for lunch, noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. Open for dinner, 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Closed Monday.
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When you feel resigned to menu mashups and mini-meals, hard seats and high decibels, fast casual and faux freshness, be restored at Franina.
Since 1980, Franina has matured gracefully while trendlets have perished around it. Originally, this was a pretty modest spot started by Franco and Nina Zitoli. But over the decades, it expanded the repertoire and refined the style.
In 2007, the remade establishment earned a two-star rating. Today, Franina ranks among the best Italian restaurants on Long Island.
The Zitoli family understands what you want to eat tonight. And, even if it isn’t a mainstay or a special, you can be assured that the kitchen can prepare it.
Sandwiched in a nondescript strip on the south side of Jericho Turnpike, the entrance to Franina is identified by a canopy and the balustrade added a decade or so ago that separates the restaurant from the compact parking lot, which most nights could be an alfresco showroom for Tesla or Mercedes.
Franina’s main dining room glows softly, in a yellow hue, without a single Edison bulb-of-the-moment to interrupt the serene style. The framed artwork is from the school of memory. Sconces could trace their design to stylized Roman torches.
A second dining area looks onto the countrified wine-storage section, which holds an outstanding collection of Italian reds, among others, with plenty available by the glass. In front of the wine room, as if protecting it, is a grand slicer for prosciutto.
There’s enough fabric around the place to ensure that the background sound of American standards and Italian favorites won’t overtake the conversation of the diners. They represent comfortable relaxed Boomers, as well as Generations X, Y and the occasional Z.
Regulars belong to Generation $.
That doesn’t mean Franina is overpriced. You could spend as much or more in Nassau and Suffolk restaurants where the freshest thing is the tab.
Franina’s food and drink are served by an attentive and experienced staff, overseen by owner-host Franco Zitoli. His son, Victor Zitoli, is the chef. Their fare includes Italian classics as well as familiar Italian-American dishes.
Memorable ones are as homey as cotechino sausage with lentils and tripe with tomatoes and potatoes. They show the expertise required for tightly wound, house-made fusilli; and the respect accorded surnames such as carbonara, Bolognese and fra diavolo. Seafood salad: terrific. Likewise, the Berkshire pork chop with spicy cherry pepper sauce. Finish your wine by sharing a slate topped with nuggets of Parmesan, some Gorgonzola, two pecorino cheeses and fruit.
This, however, shouldn’t deter you from dessert. After or before the cheese, enjoy the deftly executed, exceedingly precise tableside production of cloud-like zabaglione atop berries.
It’s a sweet effortlessly bringing back an era that exited before Franina entered it.
And that only adds to its charm.