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Entrees offered at La Piazza restaurant in Melville

Entrees offered at La Piazza restaurant in Melville include chicken scarpariello, prepared with oven-roasted chicken on the bone, Italian sweet sausage, roasted potatoes, red peppers and a garlic-rosemary brown sauce. (March 5, 2011) Photo Credit: Doug Young

A monument to mozzarella, this is the third pasta palazzo in a group that also spreads the red sauce in Plainview and Merrick.

Drivers will immediately identify the place by the oversize image of a fork twirling spaghetti, which punctuates the name like an edible exclamation point. A lot of the food is good, sometimes better. And you're assured that tonight's dinner will yield tomorrow's lunch, too.

The appeal of La Piazza, however, goes beyond the familiar, risk-averse menu. Here's a sunny spot where kids with sippy cups are as comfortable as couples with Champagne flutes. It has a contemporary look but old-fashioned appeal.

If there's any eatery that defines family dining on Long Island, it's the neighborhood destination for Italian-American favorites, including pizza, pasta, panini, and here, a category devoted exclusively to "Parmigiana." La Piazza knows what it's doing — and does it well.

THE BEST

Share a brick-oven pizzette. The pie with eggplant, fresh ricotta and mozzarella, "Reggiano" cheese and tomato stands out. So does a curious Buffalo ode with spicy chicken, mozzarella and blue cheese sauce. The stuffed pepper arrives generous and flavorful, packed with diced vegetables and bread crumbs. Bruschette also are savory, with caponata, white bean, marinated zucchini, and tomato-basil on ciabatta. Bracing minestrone and pasta e fagioli lead soups. Top pastas include the meat-filled lasagna; rigatoni with white beans, sausage, garlic and olive oil; linguine with clam sauce; and a lush variation on fettuccine carbonara. There's a satisfactory spin on chicken scarpariello, on-the-bone, with sausage, potatoes and vinegar peppers in a modest brown sauce. Good salads.

THE REST

Respectable eggplant Parmigiana, but dry chicken; a tasty "southern Italian" rendition of pasta Bolognese to which you may add ricotta, all undone by stuck-together pappardelle; bland smoked tuna interrupts fusilli puttanesca. Shippable rice balls. Uneven desserts.

THE BOTTOM LINE

They do takeout, too.

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