"I wanted to bring something new to Huntington," said Lewis Vargas, chef-owner of the new La Tavola Trattoria Ristorante in Huntington, "and to bring new life to Jericho Turnpike." Among his signature offerings: wood-fired chicken served over puréed potatoes ($24), a salmon artichoke-encrusted entree ($26), classic meatballs and sauce ($12), and a fine variety of pizzas baked in a wood-fired Cirigliano oven ($12 to $18). "A lot of places say wood-fired but there’s actually gas burning in the background," noted Vargas. "This is straight-up wood-fired."
Reiterating his desire to "bring a fresh approach to everything," Vargas mentioned his tiramisu, in which freshness takes the form of a thin layer of ground-up Oreo cookies in the middle ($10).
Name-checking all the restaurants that led the way to La Tavola — the first restaurant Vargas has owned — is something of a fool’s errand, but let’s give it a whirl anyway. His 25-year career has taken him to the kitchens of Manhattan’s TriBeCa Grill, Portico in his hometown of Port Jefferson, La Casuccia in Farmingdale, Huntington’s Porto Vivo, Vero in Amityville village — where he worked under Massimo Fedozzi — Almond in Bridgehampton, and innumerable consulting gigs at such places as Flo cafe in Queens.
Additionally, Vargas' business partner at La Tavola is Tony Dushaj, chef-owner of the restaurant that previously occupied La Tavola’s space, Ravello Italian Ristorante, which Dushaj began running last year in the same E. Jericho Tpke spot as Il Vecchio Forno (which had just opened the year before), after he left Ristorante Santa Lucia in Melville for a second time, although the first time he was there, in 2012, he called it La Fontana, rather than Tre Scallini, the name he’d given the place when he took it over from Luigi’s in 2009, Tre Scallini having been the name of his first restaurant (at a different location on E. Jericho Tpke), which Dushaj opened in 1996, sold four years later and which eventually became Piccolo Mondo.
OK, now I’ve completely forgotten what we were talking about. Oh right, La Tavola.
Why did Vargas choose this moment to open an eatery of his own? "I just turned 49, and I’ve rescued a lot of restaurants from going under," he said. "This is my opportunity to showcase my talent and do it myself."
La Tavola is at 1277 E. Jericho Tpke in Huntington, 631-271-8900, la-tavola-trattoria.com. Opening hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Monday.