Steeped in Long Island tradition, Oregano Joe's presents Wantagh with that classic Italian-American trinity: pizza, pasta and Parms. You've seen the layout in countless strip malls: on one side, a pizza parlor, on the other, a dining room -- this one simply but attractively done in shades of chocolate. Here, service is exceptionally warm and attentive.
One afternoon, a hefty square of crispino pizza staves off hunger pangs in advance of the meal. Topped with creamy swirls of fresh mozzarella plus tomato and roasted red peppers, it tastes as vibrant as it looks.
Optimal way to order calamari arrabiatta: with the piquant red sauce on the side, so its crisp batter doesn't go soggy. Yet even with the sauce on top, the appetizer stands out, thanks to ultra-tender squid. Appealing, as well, are crisp risotto cakes filled with crumbled sausage and Asiago cheese. The restaurant's take on burrata features super-creamy fresh mozzarella stuffed with ricotta and plated with pan-fried prosciutto and tomato sauce.
One expects chicken Parmigiana to be a forte and, indeed, it is, the fried boneless breasts cloaked in tomato sauce and a soft melt of mozzarella. Another old-fashioned hit is classic baked meat lasagna, generous and hearty. Although fusilli with broccoli rabe and sausage looks a bit dull, a lively garlic and oil sauce informs every bite. But linguine with white clam sauce falls flat: overcooked pasta, rubbery clams.
Those who hit the place on a Sunday will want to take advantage of the $13.95 Sunday macaroni. Although preceded by an entirely forgettable salad, the main dish is a nostalgic treat featuring pasta topped with tender stewed beef short rib, a big, plush well-seasoned meatball and a fat link of sweet Italian sausage under a blanket of red sauce. Dessert, which might be a wedge of creamy cheesecake, is included in the deal.
Available at both lunch and dinner is the Tuscan chicken panino: moist, grilled boneless breasts, marinated eggplant, fresh mozzarella and roasted garlic aioli, all coming together well.
Finish with a simple Nutella sundae topped with freshly whipped cream, a dessert that somehow tastes both Italian and American.