Nothing brightens up a meal like a friendly face. Even before I looked at the menu at Verona, I spotted Omar Ortega, longtime maitre ’d at Luigi Q in Hicksville and, more recently, partner at Bivio in Huntington — which he left a few months ago.
Ortega, who is now running the dining room at Verona, was in full-on host mode: greeting customers, checking on their lunches, bidding them farewell. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, though this was no doubt due to the food, as well. Verona doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but on the basis of our lunch, it delivers generous, well-prepared Italian-American cuisine.
“They had me at the lentil soup,” summed up the favorable view of my friend, the lentil-soup lover. My appetizer, half an avocado stuffed with crab and unusually flavorful shrimp, was simple but satisfying. We also liked a salad of beets, goat cheese and pistachio nuts, although the inclusion of tomatoes seemed to signify a kitchen that couldn’t quite get its mind around a salad with neither lettuce nor tomatoes.
Linguine and clam sauce: solid. And I liked the interplay of the little Manila clams with some large chunks of what looked to be cherrystones. Veal pizzaiolo, scaloppine sauteed with mushrooms and roasted peppers and sauced with a fresh tomato sauce, was another winner.
I should add that Ortega’s affability was matched by every server and busboy we encountered at Verona.
Verona Ristorante $$$ | Italian 1255 Melville Road Farmingdale 516-249-0000, veronafarmingdale.com.