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Osteria Salina

Timballo of tuna is served at Osteria Salina

Timballo of tuna is served at Osteria Salina in Bridgehampton. (July 20, 2012) Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The seductive, volcanic Aeolian island of Salina gives this bright, new restaurant its name. The Hamptons provide the rest.

Osteria Salina is the latest resident at the address that recently housed Copa, the tapas bar. Now, the inspiration is Sicilian, even if the food isn't always.

What you'll find is a colorful, animated dining destination that's as crowded as a tin of Sun of Italy anchovies, and noisy enough to mandate mastery of sign language. Lots of diners appear to know each other and they're mercilessly intent on reacquaintance.

But any table hopping does pose a challenge unless Olympic-level lithe. Besieged waiters rival broken-field runners. Basically, Osteria Salina revels in the chaos del giorno.

It all occurs in a stylish and stylized place, awash in hues of yellow and blue, interrupted with abstract artwork, fueled by a popular bar and sparked by the cooking of Cinzia Gaglio.

Her very good fritto misto, a crisp and blond pileup of fried squid, shrimp and zucchini flecked with capers, is worth sharing with drinks while you plan the rest.

The steamed octopus opener, however, is a bit chewy. And steamed mussels are only standard, in a tomato-tinted broth with hints of oregano and more of garlic. A starter of lobster risotto delivers sweet shellfish and tender rice, even if it doesn't exactly come together as the creamy Italian classic.

Better: the timballo al tonno, here more a variation on tuna tartare, with lush and rosy fish. Carpaccio of swordfish provides a silky alternative, with olive oil, lemon and mint.

The dish that takes in so much of Sicilian cooking is pasta con le sarde, or pasta with sardines. Typically, fresh sardines meet wild fennel, golden raisins, pine nuts, saffron, olive oil, maybe some anchovies, bucatini, certainly toasted bread crumbs, for a very palatable history of Sicily.

Chef Gaglio's rendition of pasta con le sarde is more soothing and mellow than vivid and bracing. Good but unexciting. That also goes for the warm caponata accompanying an otherwise excellent slab of grilled, line-caught swordfish. No refreshing, sweet-sour contrast. It just becomes a vegetable side dish.

Vermicelli with vongole, however, is a first-rate pasta, balancing flavors, leading with those tender, dime-size Manila clams. The lobster all'arrabbiata doesn't overdo its anger, with sufficient heat to rouse but not overwhelm the shellfish.

Juicy, oven-roasted chicken, atop Balsam Farms' chard, leads the landlocked competition.

For dessert, Osteria Salina offers satisfying cheesecake, chocolate cake, cannoli, summer in Bridgehampton.

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