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La Bistecca review

La Bistecca's rack of lamb, with a mustard-and-breadcrumb

La Bistecca's rack of lamb, with a mustard-and-breadcrumb crust. (Oct. 18 ,2012) Credit: Jeremy Bales

Nostalgia is the nightly special at La Bistecca.

This new restaurant reminds you why some things outlast the trendlet del giorno, not for any sentimental reason but because they're just good.

La Bistecca, handsome and low-key, is framed with dark-wood wainscoting and molding, painted in sunny shades, and delivered with trademark polish. The welcome is friendly, the service professional. The dining room has a little glow.

All this comes, of course, with a clearly contemporary tab, particularly for the dishes not offered every day. But at least it's not in euros.

Staff from the closed Branzino in Lynbrook are smoothly and diligently at work here. And the menu includes many courses that attracted regulars to the departed restaurant.

One must-eat is the exceptional version of pappardelle alla Bolognese. The wide ribbons of pasta arrive in a terrific meat sauce, tinted a bit more red than brown. Capellini tossed with fresh tomato, onions and prosciutto has elemental appeal. Gnocchi invariably are light.

Limp black linguine becomes the too-soft bed for an otherwise good catch of whole lobster, shrimp, scallops, calamari, clams and mussels in a major production that could serve two -- and, at $55, probably should.

Warm figs stuffed with melted Gorgonzola cheese are entangled in peppery greens for a savory opener. They're trailed by the overdone salad of grilled portobello mushrooms, baby arugula and smoked mozzarella.

And carciofi Trastevere is a disappointing rendition of carciofi alla giudea, the classic artichoke preparation from Rome's Jewish ghetto. Instead of the crisp, sunflower-like, fried variety, these are long-cut long stems that taste more preserved than fresh.

You're better off with gamberi e Romano, or shrimp sauteed with hot peppers in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce, sent out with garlic bread. Expertly fried calamari, a mini-mountain of blond rings and tentacles, finds a foil with the fiery marinara dip.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina here is an outstanding grilled shell steak rather than the traditional, thick porterhouse. You won't mind the liberties. Moreover, the steak doesn't need its Barolo reduction for company. Osso buco: very tender, very good. The hefty grilled pork tenderloin also is recommended, in a balsamic vinegar-cherry pepper sauce. Rack of lamb, with a mustard-and-breadcrumb crust, rivals it.

Seaside, La Bistecca prepares a satisfying red snapper with green and black olives, capers and tomatoes; and a buttery version of Dover sole meunière. Yes, they do have branzino, baked or grilled.

Stick with Italian cheesecake for dessert instead of the cantilevered napoleon. And zabaglione with berries delivers the winey richness of memory.

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