I smiled when I regarded the menu last night at Café Continental in Manhasset. Listed there, without any descriptions, were the standard litany of veal dishes: Marsala, piccata, Parmigiana, saltimbocca, etc. “How nice,” I thought, “that everyone understands what these words mean.”
Not so fast, Marcus. When my saltimbocca arrived it entailed veal scaloppine topped with tomato sauce and some partially melted white cheese sitting atop a huge bed of chopped spinach. This is not veal saltimbocca. Veal saltimbocca is a veal cutlet that is topped with prosciutto and sage before being dusted with flour and then sauteed. (This according to books by every Italian authority I could seek out: Mario Batali, Tony May, Fred Plotkin, etc.)
Maybe they served me the wrong dish? When I finally flagged down the hostess, she said, yes, that was the saltimbocca. “But where’s the prosciutto and sage?” I asked. She headed back to the kitchen to inquire and returned, very apologetically, with a dish, pictured above, of prosciutto heated up in some tomato sauce.
(This sort of thing drives me nuts. I am still rankled by a “coq au vin” that I ordered seven years ago at Bistro Cassis in Huntington. Rather than the expected chicken stewed in red wine with garnishes of bacon lardons, pearl onions and mushrooms, I was served a quarter of pan-roasted chicken, pierced with a stalk of rosemary, set on some mashed potatoes in a pool of a vaguely winey sauce.)
The rest of our meal was flat: octopus salad in which everything—octopus, celery, sliced olives—tasted the same; pretty asparagus vinaigrette wherein the well-cooked spears had little asparagus flavor, a stracciatella tasting mostly of salt. Roasted whole branzino was on the mushy side; a veal chop giardiniera was dusty dry, topped with a desultory mesclun mix.
On a Wednesday night, Café Continental was filled to capacity.
Café Continental is at 1538 Northern Blvd., Manhasset, 516-627-4269.