15 W. Main St., Patchogue
SERVICE: Casual, friendly
AMBIENCE: Very downtown
ESSENTIALS: Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday. Major credit cards accepted. Weekend reservations recommended; tight dining areas.
Locale means “local.” It’s at home in downtown Patchogue.
The transformation of Main Street into a dining destination briskly goes on via this sharp, new spot owned by Fabrizio Castelli and his family. They also operate the informal and flavorful Primo Piatto in Huntington. The cuisines and menus are similar if not identical, celebrating traditional Italian and Italian-American favorites.
But the styles are very different. Primo Piatto has a homey, familiar, lived-in look and approach. Locale fills another niche, with its red-tiled, beehive oven for pizzettes, windows on the kitchen, considerable metal, and spool tables near the sleek bar.
Yes, it could have been designed after repeated encounters with a millennial focus group. An informal estimate: three iPhones per table, 10 texts per meal, Instagramania.
You’ll easily join the festivities, smartphones or not, especially when one of those pizzettes arrives, its serving pan balanced on a Number 10 can acting as a stand.
The pazzia di carne, or “meat madness” pie turns up as a savory four-slice opus capped with sweet sausage, meatballs and pepperoni. Competing with it are a tasty four-cheese number, and another that includes sausage and broccoli rabe.
Cheeseheads should veer to the crisply fried, very good mozzarella in carrozza. The excellent frying continues with delectable arancini, or rice balls, with a ragu stuffing; likewise, with fried calamari.
But clams oreganata are routine. Eggplant Parmigiana suffers from bland battering. The panko-crusted chicken Parmigiana, however, improves on a too-sweet version of chicken Sorrentino, undone by its “red wine demi.” The preferable chicken choice, as you’d expect, is a light, refreshing Milanese.
The tender New York strip steak stands out, under a mantle of braised cipollini onions and Port wine sauce.
Pappardelle alla Bolognese benefits from a very satisfying meat sauce, ragu with a little cream. The spaghetti with “Nonna Rosa’s famous meatballs” earns the adjective. These are molto serious meatballs, balanced and right, a deftly sauced duet perched on pasta.
If you’re wary of spaghetti and meatballs anywhere except at home, order the meatballs on the side. They make you wish Locale had better bread for an instant hero. The house’s lasagna “tradizionale” refers not to the Bolognese classic but to the heftier, huskier, bechamel-free production, with ground beef, ricotta and mozzarella.
Linguine with white clam sauce stars littlenecks and a subtler touch than so many other spins on this ever-present course.
There are a few salads to order, either before or after the mains. Among them is the Valdostana, with wedges of barely ripe pear draped on the greens, which receive a modest snowfall of beyond-crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and a scattering of candied walnuts. Endive and arugula mark the well-dressed house salad. Conclude with professional profiteroles instead of the standard cheesecake and soft-core chocolate cake.
And, since Locale deems itself a “gastro bar,” toast it with a glass of La Marca prosecco, which sparkles just enough.