One North Mediterranean Soul
4 Old Jericho Turnpike, Jericho
AMBIENCE: Soaring rooms decked in earth tones, with sculptural ceilings and a buzzy bar
SERVICE: Congenial but erratic, with plates going uncleared and lengthy gaps between courses
ESSENTIALS: Open Monday to Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m. (with DJs on Friday nights); Sunday 4 to 9 p.m. Wheelchair accessible. Reservations strongly urged. Valet parking.
If restaurants can have multiple incarnations, the one at 4 Old Jericho Tpke. may have entered its blingiest one yet — as well as its most polarizing.
This rambling structure has fed people for more than a century under different names; when the Maine Maid Inn closed here in 2009, regulars fretted about the fate of this landmark, built in 1789 and once a stop on the underground railroad. But the Scotto Brothers, veteran Long Island restaurateurs, snapped the place up five years ago and spent millions giving new life to the old girl, and hatching what may be Long Island’s grandest opening.
One North Mediterranean Soul started serving in November, with executive chef Ron Gelish leading the kitchen and a cost-is-no-object ethos. The Scotto-led rehab has lent a dramatic presence, inside and out: A newly shingled, theatrically lit facade (with a frenetic valet parking scene) gives way to a soaring interior of lofty, earth-toned dining rooms decked out in wood, leather, marble and fabric. There’s Jetson-like lighting, gas fireplaces, an enormous centerpiece bar (and a smaller, half-moon-shaped mozzarella and wine bar), a ceiling that erupts in undulating shapes and a battalion of hostesses in miniskirts.
It’s enormous, flashy, exaggerated — and you’ll probably either love it or hate it, depending on where you fall on the scales between food and buzz, attentive service and ambience.
One North’s main, oval-shaped bar already has its own flirty, rollicking ecosystem. If you’re waiting for a table, park yourself on one of the plush bar stools with a sweetish cocktail to sip and observe, or even meet someone new.
The dining rooms (and there are several) are more sober affairs. Resist sitting in the drafty backroom, which feels like an annex; also, ask for starters early on — server visits, while genial, may be scant. Consequently, orders are taken with erratic rhythm, empty plates can go uncleared, and the waits between courses can be long — on my two visits at least 45 minutes between appetizers and main courses, without much apology. Dining here can feel like being adrift on a small boat in a busy channel, with the occasional urge to shoot up a flare.
One North stocks plenty of great, classic wines, both by glass and in bottles to make it through the 2 1⁄2 hours, at least, necessary to have dinner here. Fortuitously, the lengthy menu has entire sections devoted to mozzarella and burrata, crostini and crudo, plus the usual players, salads (decent) and hot appetizers (uneven).
The mozzarella bar is a clever conceit, and these fresh cheeses, made from buffalo milk, are imported rather than made in-house. A quivering, cool burrata dolled up with black truffles is satisfying; tiny spoons daubed with stracciatella di Bufala — rich curds made from an even rarer Italian buffalo milk — and caviar less so, gone in three bites, and for $38.
The tomatoes and salted cod of a bacalao crostini were piled so tenuously on one slice of crusty bread that it was nearly impossible to split. Grilled octopus atop a bean puree, while smoky and generously portioned, was tough. A halibut-belly crudo showered with crunchy pomegranate seeds looked beautiful but was so underdressed that we took to squeezing juice from a lemon left over from a plate of raw oysters.
The best of our starters was a special of three gargantuan Carabineros prawns, with apostrophes of creamy flesh peeking out of their shells. Delivered with a shot of sherry on the side, the shrimp were sweet and creamy — a snip at $65.
The Scottos may be known for steaks (Insignia, Rare650), but assiduously source unusual fish from waters around the world for this seafood-centric menu, then grill that fish whole over charcoal. Two we tried this way were prepared almost identically (chargrilled, butterflied and deboned, showered with herbs and capers, drizzled with olive oil and lemon) but like night and day: Fagri, a type of red porgy, arrived dry and blunted in flavor, while a black sea bass had blackened, crispy, munchable skin and almost buttery flesh.
One North is deft with tomatoes, which it confits for the tasty broth of a cioppino heaped with cockles, potatoes and prawns (plus one lonely sea scallop) or crushed into a chunky sauce with a red-pepper kick for bucatini with octopus.
Desserts from pastry chef Joemi Reyes are across the board solid, from a super-bright lemon panna cotta, whipped yogurt atop kataifi pastry, or gossamer Heavenly Whites, featherlight meringue folded with vanilla cream.
So, is One North more style than substance? It will be up to you whether to surrender to its sparkle.