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Lula Trattoria review

Lula Trattoria's linguini pescatore. (Dec. 22, 2012)

Lula Trattoria's linguini pescatore. (Dec. 22, 2012) Credit: Johnny Simon

Lula Trattoria is all about good taste -- or, to be exact, tastes.

The buoyant restaurant, which succeeds Circa Enoteca at this address, is one big tasting of little plates. Most are very good.

So's the look of the place, with plenty of polished wood and a mid-room fireplace that immediately gets your attention. On weekends, the joint is jammed, the noise level jumps, and you feel as if you've come upon a party to which all are invited.

For all the activity and the persistent encouragement to select at least one more plate, you should pace yourself. Lula is a spot where you may want to linger, over a drink or at least another dish.

Chef Tom Gloster, who has cooked at Rothmann's in East Norwich and Zim Zari in Massapequa Park, oversees the kitchen here. His menu is divided into a dozen sections. Start choosing.

Before diving into the full-flavored stuff, try either the tuna crudo, finished with chervil, radish, lemon and olive oil, or the salmon variation, with shaved fennel, chives, apple, olive oil and lemon dressing. Both are refreshers.

There's a respectable selection of salumi, including duck prosciutto and spicy coppa, and another of cheeses, among them Gorgonzola dolce and house-made mozzarella.

You'll see plenty of brick-oven pizzettes reaching tables. They have a flatbread quality. The Parma delivers with toppings of prosciutto, arugula, Gorgonzola cheese, a fig compote and truffle oil; the melanzana, with eggplant, herb-lemon ricotta and saba, a sweet-tart reduction of fresh grape juice, complete with stems and seeds.

Gloster also sends out a fine pan-seared scallop appetizer, glossy with smoked-tomato butter. Grilled octopus arrives smoky but a bit chewy, boosted by fried capers. The obligatory meatball slider is moist and mild. You'll eat two.

Wild mushroom risotto is more al dente than creamy. And the pappardelle with pulled-duck ragu needs some spark. But rigatoni with sausage, Gorgonzola and Swiss chard gets Lula going again. Consider bucatini all'Amatriciana, too.

The fish division stars plump diver scallops paired with wild mushrooms and boosted by pancetta and chives, and the inevitable branzino, here filleted and grilled, accented with lemon and pine nuts, atop spinach.

Beef braciola with pine nuts, raisins and parsley is the tightly wound, perfectly cylindrical variety, amply sauced. Skip the dull, grilled veal spiedini. The competition is from steak alla pizzaiola and lamb sausage with white beans and Swiss chard.

Tiramisu and apple-crumb cheesecake are solid finales. But you'll be tempted by the gelati -- they have at least three flavors.

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