A friend was just back from his first trip to Italy and going through the usual symptoms of culinary withdrawal. Last night, to ease his re-entry, I took him to Luigi Q (where they know me).
In a proper Italian carbonara, pancetta (or, better still, guanciale) and grated cheese are bound to the pasta by egg alone; cream doesn’t enter into it. Such a carbonara is a rarity here, but owner Luigi Quarta makes one. He can’t restrain himself from gilding the lily: sometimes the carbonara has thinly sliced cabbage in it. (What can I say? It works.) Last night he enriched the sauce with a little truffle butter. My jet-lagged friend was pleased.
What I miss most about dining in Italy is the primacy of vegetables and, here again, Luigi Q excels. Before we even ordered, Quarta, a native of Brindisi in Puglia, brought us a plate of superb eggplant “done the way my father did it.” Small eggplants had been thinly sliced, lightly salted to bring out the bitterness, then grilled and garnished with good olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh mint.
Next up, this tangled pile of Italian peppers, above, sauteed simply in olive oil with garlic. “Some of them are hot, some of them aren’t,” Quarta warned. “You don’t know until you eat them.” For the record, none were scorchingly spicy; all were delicious.
We enjoyed our secondi, a filet of halibut, an expertly pan-roasted baby chicken. But to me it was the pasta and, especially, the vegetables that really stood out. All too often in Long Island Italian restaurants, vegetables run the gamut from eggplant Parmesan to escarole braised with too much garlic. Grazie mille, Luigi.
Luigi Q is at 400A S. Oyster Bay Rd., Hicksville, 516-932-7450.