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Mama Mia of Northport: First bites

Linguine with white clam sauce at Mama Mia

Linguine with white clam sauce at Mama Mia in Northport, on September 2014, features clams both in and out of their shells. Credit: Newsday / Joan Reminick

If it's true that the key to success for any neighborhood Italian restaurant is its red sauce, then the new Mama Mia of Northport starts life ahead of the game.

The offshoot of a successful Huntington red-sauce spot, Porto Fino, Mama Mia has a pizza counter on one side, a dine-in space on the other. The night I ate there, one waitress had to handle the entire dining room — no small feat, since every table was taken. And if the food was slow in coming, it at least proved satisfying.

Especially so was a Margherita pizzette, with a crisp, clean-tasting crust and vibrant tomato-mozzarella-basil topping. Vibrancy characterized the chicken parm, as well. But penne fiorite, featuring broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes and grilled chicken in garlic and oil, was bland and boring. I have yet to figure out why restaurants continue to include dry grilled white meat chicken pieces in pasta dishes. On the other hand, linguine with clam sauce aced it — just enough garlic, al dente pasta and plenty of clams, both in and out of their shells.

Mama Mia of Northport is at 395 Fort Salonga Rd., Northport, 631-651-5015,