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Jonathan's Ristorante review: Huntington winner

Jonathan's rustic, double-cut pork chop is served with

Jonathan's rustic, double-cut pork chop is served with cipollini, potatoes and artichokes. (Nov. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Johnny Simon

Downtown Huntington, where choosing a restaurant could inspire a board game, almost always attracts new players. Jonathan's Ristorante, though, has been around since 1994.

Now, it must rank among the top five or six in town. Here's a handsome, unpretentious, polished spot that balances the traditional and the novello, the serious and the whimsical. On any night, it's a refuge from whatever chaos has slipped into your week.

The establishment remains decorated with the lighthearted artwork of dogs and monkeys in chef's garb. Woodwork still shines. Overall, Jonathan's has developed a gentle patina.

You really don't want it to change much, even though the chairs could be more comfortable and the tables would be better if they didn't move every time you do.

Chef Tito Onofre takes care of the rest.

His savory saute of wild mushrooms and soft polenta battles the evening chill. Or sample the elemental starter of speck, Parmesan cheese and artichokes. The salad Amalfitana, with fennel, radish, cucumber and orange, is a tasty opener, too, along with the cucumber-radish number enriched with white Sicilian anchovies. If they still offer the combo of black mission figs with sweet Gorgonzola and prosciutto, it's mandatory to share as an extra.

The top appetizer, however, is an excellent, blond fritto misto of calamari, shrimp and zucchini, sent out with anchovy-driven mayo and a light tomato sauce, that encourages you to keep eating.

You can skip the crabcake with saffron aioli and lentil salad; and the seared sea scallops with baby arugula, both a bit overdone. Yellowfin tuna tartare is standard, even with its drizzle of wasabi.

But allow for pasta. Onofre expertly prepares plenty of them. Spaghetti all'aragosta, with tender lobster meat and a spicy tomato sauce, is outstanding. Likewise, a menu staple: strozzapreti, similar to twisted and elongated cavatelli, in a delicious Bolognese sauce. Gnocchi tossed with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and eggplant could convince you summer isn't far off.

The rustic, double-cut pork chop, with cipollini, potatoes and artichokes, would be even better minus the truffle oil. Chicken with rosemary-lemon sauce and rosemary-roasted potatoes: fine as is. So are the branzino, finished with lemon, capers and white wine; and Scottish salmon with caramelized fennel.

Conclude with creamy, excellent mascarpone cheesecake; a lush panna cotta; any sweet with fruit.

Pass "Go" and make plans to return.

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