Chances are you've never tried a piadina, the grilled Italian flatbread from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. To find the specialty on Long Island, all roads lead to Cinelli’s Pizzeria & Grill in Oceanside, where owner Franco Abballe makes the bread in-house, crafting sandwiches whose fillings taste of Italy.
I recently stopped into the colorful, contemporary spot and ordered the “San Marco” piadina filled with Speck prosciutto, caciotta tartuffo (truffle-infused sheep and cow’s milk cheese), roasted peppers and spring greens, dressed with a little balsamic and olive oil. So good, and only $8.
Abballe’s 12-inch “artisan” pizza is beautifully crafted, baked in a standard gas oven. I tried the “Monticiani” topped with mozzarella, pancetta, charred cherry tomatoes and basil pesto on a thin, crisp crust with a clean wheaten flavor ($10). Add it to your list of Long Island standouts.
While Abballe doesn’t make pasta in-house, he buys a high-end dried product from Italy. So, you can have such shapes as strozzapretti (described on the menu as “resembling a rolled towel … dates to the middle ages … from the Emilia-Romagna region if Italy”) and fusilli lunghi (a long twisted corkscrew with a hollow middle from Campania). Gluten-free pasta is also available.
Some interesting pasta dishes: “Ernica” (with escarole, cannellini beans, garlic, oil and toasted oreganata bread crumbs, $10) and "Elisabeta" (a dish Abballe’s grandmother served him, combining black tiger shrimp and zucchini in fresh tomato sauce, $14). Also on the menu: starters, wraps, salads, soups and entrees.
Abballe is going as organic and local as possible and wants to educate his clientele without charging them a bundle. “None of our wines go over $22 to $24 a bottle,” he said. “To do that, we find up and coming vineyards, everywhere from New Zealand, to California to Italy and Chile and then some.”
The restaurant is not affiliated with Cinelli’s Pizza in Franklin Square (although both owners are related). With only seven tables, reservations at dinnertime would be wise.
Cinelli's Pizzeria & Grill is at 156 Davison Ave., Oceanside, 516-678-9494.
Above: "San Marco" piadina at Cinelli's, Oceanside