Matteo’s Trattoria & Bar
300 W. Jericho Tpke., Huntington Station
SERVICE: Smooth and attentive
AMBIENCE: Designed to impress
ESSENTIALS: Open Monday to Thursday 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 p.m., Sunday 3 to 9 p.m. Weekend reservations recommended; major credit cards accepted; wheelchair accessible.
The Empire State Building was completed in a bit more than a year. It took three to renovate Matteo’s.
The result is unquestionably Long Island’s most opulent destination for Italian-American favorites and family-style dining. Single portions are available. Fair prices for both ensure a mandatory stop.
Jerry Sbarro, who owns Rothmann’s Steakhouse in East Norwich and three other Matteo’s, delivers an upbeat, full-flavored, very satisfying rejuvenation of a dining style that has been a staple for decades. Matteo’s has been around for more than 25 years.
Matteo’s Trattoria & Bar, as it’s now formally called, greets you with an exterior design that bridges the solidity of a big bank and the seriousness of a mausoleum. Once inside, it immediately gets lively, from the jammed, double-height wraparound bar to a trio of dining areas with seating for 200 diners, and tables that often serve three generations.
The main room glows not only from the slash of faux fireplace that catches your eye, but with soft lighting, dark wood and black-and-white photos that suggest Italian scenes from Fellini and Rossellini.
You’ll also find smaller spaces with views of the kitchen, where a major show is underway. Executive chef Dennis Borysowski oversees the kitchen.
Nibble on crisply fried calamari and well-seasoned baked clams oreganata. Or try the sauteed, head-on prawns with flavor to match their size. Octopus, however, arrives more singed than grilled. And the robiola pizza, overwhelmed by truffle oil, and the pie capped with a hint of Gorgonzola and prosciutto and a harvest of arugula, each require some fine-tuning.
Satisfy your need for cheese with the mozzarella selections. Enjoy warm mozzarella, tangy mozzarella di bufala, near-decadent burrata, accented with shaved black truffle, roasted peppers, prosciutto di Parma, a fig compote, honey, pancetta.
Matteo’s stands out with several pastas. Leading them: a riff on pappardelle alla Bolognese and a savory version of bucatini all’Amatriciana. The cheese ravioli rival them. Matteo’s wanders off-script with a surprisingly bland fettuccine alla carbonara.
Befitting the Rothmann’s connection, the strip steak with potatoes and shishito peppers is a juicy, prime pick. The spin on veal chop Valdostana comes in on the dry side. But tender “osso buco,” made with pork, shallots and mushroom espagnole sauce, enriches the proceedings; and the combo of sausage and broccoli rabe stays reliably good.
Seaside, shrimp Luciano with tomatoes and sauteed spinach has purist appeal. But Sicilian-style black sea bass turns biting from an overdose of briny capers.
If you can fit dessert: bombolini, or the Italianate variation on the doughnut via zeppole; a wedge of tiramisu; tasty New York cheesecake; or biscotti with cannoli cream. If not, well, you’ll be back.
Matteo’s Trattoria & Bar: worth the wait.