From fine dining critic Peter M. Gianotti
An Italian reverie will do just about now. And La Tavola in Sayville is a relaxed, country-style spot with very good, unpretentious cooking. Visit the restaurant for the cheeses and cured meats, rice balls, perhaps a plate of cacio e pepe to evoke a Roman holiday or potato-and-sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi Bolognese to daydream in general. Roast duck with cherry mostarda and polenta and the fennel-encrusted pork chop heighten the competition, too.
La Tavola, 183 W. Main St., Sayville, 631-750-6900, latavolasayville.com
From food editor Marjorie Robins
It’s been around since 1969, but the serene feel and updated menu at La Coquille in Manhasset is of the moment. Especially appealing is the hot appetizer of artichoke gratin, peeled leaves of the globe arranged in a sun-like pattern, brushed with Parmesean and a dab of vinaigrette. Also recommended: split-roasted garlic prawns, the classic duck a l’orange, or any of the fish specials. The wait staff is debonaire and the chocolate mousse a thing of beauty.
La Coquille, 1669 Northern Blvd, Manhasset, 516-365-8422, lacoquilleny.com
From cheap eats critic Melissa McCart
An unexpected place to find soft shell crab — now that the season is upon us — is Orient Odyssey in Jericho, sibling to Tommy Tan’s Orient Chinese Restaurant in Bethpage.
Battered in tempura and garnished with scallions, garlic and chilies, these crabs (a $23 special) fall among the most memorable of the season so far.
Orient Odyssey, Birchwood Plaza, 515 N. Broadway, Jericho, 516-719-0021