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The first-floor dining area of Porto Vivo restaurant

The first-floor dining area of Porto Vivo restaurant in Huntington. Credit: Bill Davis

Joy Mangano, who brought you Huggable Hangers and the Miracle Mop, invents a new and unusual item for 2009: Hot Restaurant.

Porto Vivo explodes in downtown Huntington with enough ink and buzz to make it a media mainstay, luring crowds and the occasional Joy-managed celeb. Saturday night - very live.

Mangano, best known for her Home Shopping Network role, restaurateur Philipp Seipelt and especially chef Steven Lecchi, produce a colorful show for all, transforming the ex-address of Gerard Street Antiques into a sharp, sleek, multi-tier attraction, loaded with high windows and marble-tile floors, exposed brick and ductwork, and, fittingly, a catwalk.

You'll observe four dining areas: a booming street-level spot; a busy, meet-market bar-and-lounge; and two quieter spaces upstairs, one with fireplace and the other with privacy. Executive chef Lecchi, who recently cooked for Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, and consulting chef John Doherty, a Waldorf-Astoria veteran, fashion an of-the-moment, often very good Italian menu, appropriately read with sunglasses.

The best

Nibble on antipasti: savory roasted fennel finished with a blood-orange vinaigrette; chunky caponata; white bean-and-escarole salad. Or try a flatbread capped with prosciutto, arugula and fresh figs. Appetizing openers include the plump, seared sea scallop with ginger-orange marmalade; creamy polenta with fontina cheese and portobello mushroom; and meaty, delicately crisped crab cakes. Better pastas are the lush, goat cheese-and-ricotta gnocchi Bolognese and braised short-rib tortelloni. And the kitchen excels with grilled dry-aged New York strip steak; roasted rack of lamb; and a refined version of chicken scarpariello. On the side, sample roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta and apple, well-seasoned fries, and the soothing ricotta gnocchi gratin.

Top sweets: a professional chocolate souffle and Mangano's creamy, namesake cheesecake.

The rest

Overorchestrated open ravioli of lobster and shrimp; overcooked grilled branzino and veal Milanese; standard fried calamari; dull fried artichoke hearts; bland butternut-squash soup.

The bottom line


Porto Vivo is located at 7 Gerard St., Huntington, 631-385-8486,