It's probably fated that Salvatore Sorrentino would eventually open his own restaurant. As a teenager, he began cooking inside various Matteo's, the string of Italian restaurants that his family owned both here and in Florida — and, later, at Andreas25 in Commack, also owned by his family. "He's been in the kitchen since he was 18," said Christina Sorrentino, his wife.
Now in their 30s, the Sorrentinos had been looking for a spot in and around Bay Shore for five years when they saw a Craigslist ad last winter for the former Gino's Pizzeria at 45 Main Street, which had closed. The space had been a pizzeria, off and on, since the early 70s; now it's where Salvatore Sorrentino's first restaurant as chef-owner, ITA Kitchen, opened in late September.
ITA Kitchen (the I-T-A stands for "Italian American") is assertively modern, with neutral walls, a minimalist bar, and seating split between banquettes and tables. A painted slogan on one wall — "all we need is love and pasta" — embodies the ethos here — among Sorrentino's "macaroni" dishes ($19 to $24) are pan-seared ricotta gnocchi in a truffle cream sauce and rigatoni al'lamatriciana with shaved ricotta salata.
Pasta may be a given, but the menu also cinches together appetizers (broccoli rabe and sausage egg rolls among them), salads, panini, and entrees like a twist on veal saltimbocca called SJ's veal chop, served with truffle fries and named for one of the Sorrentinos' children. (Speaking of kids, the little people can choose between chicken parm, four-cheese mac-and-cheese and a few other dishes that don't seem like afterthoughts). Appetizers begin at $12 during dinner (for pesto risotto balls) and main plates top out at $39, for the veal cutlets; somewhere in between is the giant meatball known as Ma the Meatball, and made from veal, pork and ground New York strip steak, then settled into a San Marzano tomato sauce, for $10. Apple-souffle cheesecake and affogato are among the dessert rota.
ITA has a full bar, and one of the house cocktails, a jalapeno margarita dubbed the HBIC, is named for Christina Sorrentino — to break the ice at the bar, ask what that stands for (Sorrentino has a sense of humor about it). There is no beer on tap, but Peroni and others by the bottle, plus a full wine list.
ITA Kitchen is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Friday, and dinner only on Saturday and Sunday; check the website for hours, and Facebook for rotating specials, such as happy hour.
ITA Kitchen 45 W. Main St., Bay Shore, 631-267-5916. itakitchenbayshore.com