At last count, there were 16 Nassau County branches of this go-to Italian panini, pasta and pizzette midpriced chainlet, so it's easy to pop into one for lunch or on the way home after work.
Having just returned from a week in California, where good salads are as easy to spot as Maseratis speeding on the 405, I was happy to be served this tricolore version, above, in the Manhasset restaurant. While it couldn't beat the one I had at Urth in Santa Monica just a few days earlier, its thin-cut radicchio, peppery baby arugula and crisp endive with Gaeta olives and shaved Parmigiana made me glad that Long Island could be somewhat of a contender against the West Coast stars. (Salt cravers: this one's for you.)
And what could be more soothing post-vacation than a little pot filled with pasta fagioli? Maybe there was a bit too much chunky canned tomato, but the diced zucchini, white beans and ditalini pasta were so hot and comforting that the acidic overtone seemed well worth risking an acid-reflux attack later.
I only had a couple of bites of this rigatoni Bolognese, and it tasted pretty good, but it left me craving a chunkier sauce. If I'm going to indulge in red meat, I want to be able to enjoy biting into it.
This branch of La Bottega is at 444 Plandome Rd. in Manhasset, 516-439-5460. For a full rundown of where to find one close to you, go here.