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Nick's Tuscan Grill

An appetizer of stuffed meatballs is served at

An appetizer of stuffed meatballs is served at Nick's Tuscan Grill, a new Italian restaurant and successor to Nick DiAngelo in Long Beach. (April 17, 2010) Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Near the bar at Nick's Tuscan Grill is a drawing that evokes the Duomo of Florence. Except for spinach and beans, it's the closest the remade Nick DiAngelo gets to Tuscany. The new eatery thrives much closer to home.

The spirited spot, part of the George Martin restaurant group, delivers full-flavored and very generous Italian-American cooking that's just as welcome as any rare T-bone or minestrone di fagioli. They could have called it Nick's Calabrian or Umbrian, Abruzzese or Barese. You'll enjoy it, anyway.

A comfortable dining room has been handsomely updated, with earth-tone tile and brick, evocative Italian posters. The breezy trattoria approach improves on the old family-style production.

THE BEST

Nick's prepares a husky pappardelle Bolognese, wide noodles tossed in savory meat sauce sparked by sweet sausage, braised short rib and ricotta; and tasty spaghettini with stuffed veal meatballs. The meatballs, sparked with fontina and sage, are served as "poppers" on bread, for a satisfying appetizer, too.

A variation on the popular Nick's chicken from this restaurant's predecessor survives the makeover and remains very good. Now it's roasted Tuscan chicken "Nick's style" with a balsamic glaze, rosemary-seasoned potatoes, peppers and sweet sausage. The hefty, juicy stuffed Berkshire pork chop, packed with fontina cheese and apples, arrives glistening from a Port reduction. Competition comes from the braised beef short ribs, paired with Parmesan-and-truffle whipped potatoes. Order the Parmesan-garlic mashed potatoes with any other main dish. Seaside: garlicky jumbo shrimp with roasted tomatoes, spinach, mozzarella. To conclude: a regional specialty, the brownie sundae.

THE REST

Standard fried calamari; dry "silver dollar" eggplant Parmesan; a dull spin on ribollita, or bread soup; routine chopped salad; fine swordfish undone by a flavorless olive-and-fennel coating. Pizzas have tasty toppings and bland crusts. Leave the cannoli.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Good time.

 

FOR MORE ITALIAN COMFORT

 

 

Dodici

 

FOOD 2 stars

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516-764-3000, dodicirestaurant.com

COST $$-$$$

SERVICE Very good

AMBIENCE Very good

There are many reasons to visit Dodici, a dependable downtowner. Recommendations include fusilli puttanesca, garganelli Bolognese, orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage, carpaccio, white-bean soup, panini, the four-cheese and eggplant pizzas, and pine-nut-crusted St. Peter's fish.

 

Mario

 

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631-273-9407, restaurantmario.com

COST $$-$$$

SERVICE Very good

AMBIENCE Good

Mario is an anchor on Motor Parkway, reliable and unpretentious, right for social evenings and business lunches. Winners include bresaola (air-cured beef), spiedino with ham and cheese, stracciatella soup, breaded lamb chops, tripe Napoletana, calf's liver with onions, trenette with pesto, and cannelloni.

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