While there is ample room to dine in, the more-frequent business is take-out--and what a ... More »
Despite its "grand opening" banners, the 4-month-old Marsala in Massapequa has the look of a neighborhood standby that's been around since the days of beehive hairdos and poodle skirts.
Pressed tin ceilings, red checkered tablecloths, banquettes upholstered in red naugahyde and old-fashioned tile floors give this combination pizzeria and ristorante a vintage look.
Such looks are easily bought. What you can't get from an interior designer's studio, though, is genuine warmth. Somehow, in a very short time, Marsala seems to have achieved that on its own.
I watched as an elderly couple bantered with their waiter. "Am I going to see you two tomorrow?" he asked as they rose to leave. "You bet," was the answer. That same waiter advised me to order the tortellini in brodo, the Italian version of chicken soup, for my laryngitis. It was eminently comforting, if not fully curative, as was his concern.
Another evening, when four of us descended on the place after 9 p.m., we found ourselves served in a gracious and timely fashion, never feeling the slightest bit rushed.
Whatever time you arrive, you'll get a basket of hot garlicky focaccia. One of those, with a bowl of the restaurant's tomato-y minestrone, would be sufficient to call lunch, at least for me. Or you might want to share a pizza. A friend and I split the melanzane (eggplant) version, which was lush and flavorsome. Less successful was the Gorgonzola salad that we also shared. It was watered down by diced tomatoes and dressed with a too-sweet raspberry vinaigrette. But the Caesar salad, which comes gratis with most entrees, was vibrant and well-dressed. I was impressed with the zuppa di cozze, plump, fresh mussels in a white wine and garlic broth perfect for dipping bread. A dinner special of red snapper and assorted shellfish cane in a bright Livornase sauce was punctuated by olives and capers. It was a hit with me. So, too, was the shrimp fra diavolo, big sweet crustaceans in a lively (but not incendiary) red sauce over al dente linguini. But spaghetti pomodoro, fine in its own right, was undermined by bready,
bland and lukewarm meatballs. What turned out to be surprisingly satisfying was a heavy-sounding special of stuffed rigatoni with shrimp, the ricotta-filled tubes blanketed with a rich vodka sauce.
Chicken cacciatatore translated into boneless breasts in a lively ragout of tomatoes, peppers, onions mushrooms and garlic. And what of the restaurant's namesake dish, chicken marsala? The cutlets were tender enough to cut with a fork, the sauce (not too sweet, as many versions are) laced with lots of mushrooms.
Conclude with a house-made cannoli and an espresso. You may well be on a first-name basis with the staff by your next visit.
Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 11/26/04.