There's no trend on Long Island that's bigger than small plates. They take many forms, starting with tapas, the Spanish classics. These restaurants lead the ever-growing group.
Selections by Newsday's food staff.
Amerrickana Tapas & Bar
Amerrickana Tapas & Bar, Merrick: At this little jewel box of a restaurant, chef Howard Fay turns out an array of small plates characterized by wit and skill. A ''tapas'' of crisp fried shrimp and spiced popcorn spills out of a popcorn box. Plump, meaty chicken wings, creamy-rich lobster mac and cheese and fish tacos presented in a bento box are other hits. So, too, is the Cuban panino, beef sliders and fig and prosciutto flatbread. Not to be missed: the opulent white chocolate bread pudding. (Pictured: Spinach and pomegranate salad with chicken.)
Challah white chocolate bread pudding is a dessert must at Amerrickana Tapas & Bar in Merrick.
Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas
Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas, Garden City: Decorated in a quasi-industrial motif, this corporate-owned Italian tapas spot, embedded in a high-end outlet center, offers an interesting array of wines by the glass and bottle, as well as a wide range of small plates. It all makes for interesting sampling. While the menu changes regularly, past hits include the funghi pizza, spaghetti carbonara, grilled marinated lamb chops (pictured) and ricotta gnocchi with wild boar ragu.
A dish of spaghetti ala carbonara is served at Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas in Garden City.
Petulant Wino, Aquebogue: Chef Tom Schaudel and daughter Courtney started this small-plates, wine bar and bistro combination at the west end of the North Fork. It's polished, streamlined, always inviting and never petulant. Recommended: the raw bar, duck rillettes, chipotle-braised duck taco, pulled duck, tuna tartare, deviled eggs, lemongrass-poached shrimp, fluke crudo, grilled oysters, smoked shrimp tacos, roasted pork belly with rhubarb, lamb meatballs with tomato-and-raisin agrodolce and feta cheese, cured meats and cheeses, hummus, lobster pappardelle, pan-roasted blackfish with Thai green curry and banana salsa, assorted salads, Black Angus hamburger, hanger-steak lettuce wraps and a peach-and-brown butter tart. (Pictured: Pan-seared diver sea scallops.)
Pan-roasted Long Island blackfish is served in Thai green curry with black rice and banana salsa at Petulant Wino in Aquebogue.
Viaggio Tapas, Rockville Centre: For an authentic taste of Spain, Viaggio Tapas is your destination. It's a bustling, festive restaurant full of big flavors, hearty wines, sherry and very good sangria. There are a few larger plates to fuel the celebrations, too. Recommended: great Iberico ham; superior patatas bravas; shrimp heads in spicy sauce; smoked Basque oysters; zucchini flatbread with caramelized onions, goat cheese, and spiced honey; grilled Spanish octopus; house-made sausage with white beans and caramelized onions; chorizo with lemon aioli; lobster croquettes; a sensational seafood paella (pictured) complete with socarrat, the delicious, toasty caramelized rice at the bottom; and ice cream sandwiches.
Jamon Pata Negra, the great Iberico ham from pigs that feed mainly on acorns, is cured for nine months, and is a specialty at Viaggio Tapas in Rockville Centre.
Swallow, Huntington: Two bites for one here, with locations in Huntington and Montauk. Both are buoyant and energetic. One is more stylized and downtowny; the other more like a seaside resort spot. Recommended in Huntington: shrimp po'boy, pan con tomate (pictured), deviled eggs with Serrano ham, sauteed chicken liver crostino, butternut squash ''cappuccino,'' grilled baby octopus and asparagus fries. Recommended in Montauk: the raw bar, snow crab tacos, pork cheek tacos, lobster sliders, beef sliders, clam chowder, shrimp and grits and fried chicken wings. (Montauk location is Swallow East, located at 474 W. Lake Dr.; 631-668-8344)
Deviled eggs with Serrano ham are a good choice at Swallow restaurant in Huntington.
Salumi Tapas & Wine Bar
Salumi Tapas & Wine Bar, Massapequa: This rustic wine bar and tapas restaurant, which spawned Plancha in Garden City, offers an impressive assortment of cheeses and cured meats from Italy, Spain, France and elsewhere, to be paired with a wine or craft beer. Among the many successful dishes are lamb meatballs, grilled octopus and the empanada of the week. (Pictured: Smoked anchovies served over mascarpone on a house-baked ciabatta.)
Bacon pinchos are served with spicy mustard at Salumi Tapas & Wine Bar in Massapequa.
Cafe Buenos Aires
Cafe Buenos Aires, Huntington: Hugo Garcia's restaurant in downtown Huntington is tapas headquarters, reliably excellent for plates small and larger. Lively, crowded, immediately appealing, it's a grazer's oasis for Argentine cuisine and riffs on the cuisine of Spain. Recommended: Galician-style octopus tinted with paprika; seafood ceviche; sauteed clams with chorizo; marinated white anchovies; Serrano ham with manchego cheese and olives; grilled and sliced Argentine sausage; tripe and pork with white beans; calf's liver with sauteed onions and bacon; potato pie with ham, egg and onion; baked cream of corn and cheese; stuffed veal; sesame-crusted tuna carpaccio; salads; crabcake with saffron aioli; Spanish omelet with chorizo; pastas; and mixed grill for two. (Pictured: Empanadas.)
Oysters stuffed with spinach, mascarpone cheese, bacon and breadcrumbs, finished with bechamel sauce, are on the tapas menu at Cafe Buenos Aires in Huntington.
Cafe Mendoza, Commack: The spirited offspring of Cafe Buenos Aires in Huntington, this compact spot in a small shopping center stands out with zesty tapas and wines from Argentina. There also are outstanding larger plates. Service is attentive; the mood, upbeat. Recommended: octopus with chickpeas and chimichurri sauce; braised pork belly in a Port reduction; spinach gnocchi with bay scallops; sauteed chickpeas and longaniza sausage; ceviche of shellfish; patatas bravas; macaroni-and-cheese with smoked bacon crab-stuffed piquillo peppers; tuna-and-spinach empanada; Cuban sandwich; lobster roll; grilled rib-eye steak; mixed grill for two (pictured); mango flan; balcarce, or sponge cake with dulce de leche, peaches and meringue.
Mango flan is a top dessert at Cafe Mendoza in Commack.
Lola, Great Neck: Chef-owner Michael Ginor has remade bold, higher-priced Lola into a more casual, moderate-cost, full-flavored hybrid of the original and his long-departed cafe, Tel Aviv. Here, Middle Eastern, North African, and Mediterranean cuisine play off each other. The result from Ginor and chef de cuisine Lenny Messina is delightful. Recommended: lamb malawach, a pizza-like Yemenite number with spiced lamb; charred octopus calcotada with a side trip to Catalonia; outstanding hummus; fattoush salad; refreshing compressed watermelon with grilled haloumi cheese; patatas bravas spurred by harissa aioli; seared Hudson Valley duck breast; chicken schnitzel atop a lemony potato puree; roasted chicken with couscous; halvah napoleon; and flourless chocolate-almond cake. (Pictured: Cauliflower with pita bread.)
Grilled octopus is served at Lola in Great Neck.
Plancha Tapas and Wine Bar
Plancha Tapas and Wine Bar, Garden City: Plancha, named for its flat-top Spanish grill, is all about the simple pleasures of sipping wine and sharing plates. The younger sibling of Salumi in Massapequa features such winning little dishes as Marcona almonds fried with sea salt, patatas bravas (roasted fingerling potatoes with a spicy red sauce and cumin aioli), grilled duck breast over smashed fava beans and pork belly bocadillo, a little sandwich made with kimchee, sesame mayo, lime and cilantro. (Pictured: The Spanish board served with a selection of meats and cheeses.)