In terms of scale, Carlo Stanisci has worked the front of the house at some pretty substantial places — Morimoto, Upland and Nix in New York City, to name a few. About 10 days ago, he and partner Lina DeFalco migrated to the other end of the spectrum, opening the aptly named Little Kitchen in Wantagh across the street from the Wantagh LIRR station.
With eight seats and a succinct breakfast-to-lunch menu, Little Kitchen lives up to its name, but Stanisci's culinary ideas are nevertheless writ large and in commuter-friendly fashion: "Muffins" (timbales, really) made from eggs whites, spinach, mozzarella and mushrooms; slender croissants baked with so much butter they feel weighty in your hand; braised beef meatballs, based on a family recipe, loaded onto a toasted hero with marinara sauce, basil and Parmesan; and, soon to come, sandwiches such as banh mi, eggplant Parm and pulled pork (at least, once he considers the recipe to his liking).
"He's been working on that pulled pork and the whole block has tried some," quipped DeFalco, who does the baking but also brings her A-game to healthier snacks: Fruit cups (on a recent day, strawberries, blueberries and grapes); protein cups of hard-boiled eggs, arugula, tomato and quinoa; and overnight oats with chia, almonds, shaved coconut and blueberries.
DeFalco and Stanisci are both from Brooklyn, though DeFalco has lived on Long Island for more than 20 years; she had her first taste of restaurant life while dating Stanisci and working alongside him at his place on Martha's Vineyard, #9 Sandwiches. When the couple returned to New York, they found the spot in Wantagh where a doughnut shop had closed a few months prior, and thought it was perfect for the kind of place they wanted to create, simple, intimate and tailored to commuters. "Little Kitchen is an extension of our home," DeFalco said, adding they were undeterred by the all-electric kitchen.
In their first week or so of business, more people have been choosing to eat in than they anticipated, so the pair may soon add a fourth table; future plans also include opening on Saturdays (they operate solely on weekdays now, from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and debuting that pulled pork sandwich, on a toasted brioche bun with from-scratch barbecue sauce.
In keeping with character, Stanisci offered a visitor (me) a taste, and I think it had crossed the finish line: luscious, with understated spices (the meat starts with a dry rub) and a personality more bright than heavy.
Little Kitchen, 3252 Railroad Ave., Wantagh, 516-785-0029, littlekitchenwantagh.com.