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Long Island outdoor dining: Restaurants to eat at this spring

Outdoor dining is available at Pinon's Pizza Company

Outdoor dining is available at Pinon's Pizza Company in Locust Valley. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Consider it outdoor dining 2.0. A year into the pandemic, more Long Island restaurants are leaning into relaxed restrictions that make it easier to set up al fresco dining areas for patrons who prefer to eat outside. Hastily erected parking lot tents with scattered bistro tables have yielded to upscale pavilions and cushioned lounge areas with table service. Some newly revamped spots worth checking out this spring:

Pinons Pizza Company (23 Birch Hill Rd., Locust Valley): Locust Valley is one of Long Island’s most picturesque burgs. Andrew Robinson’s neo-pizzeria-wine bar erected a few tables out front last year, made it through the winter with a combination of fire pits and upright heat towers. Now, between custom-built coffee tables, high-top tables and picnic tables, outdoor capacity approaches 40. In addition to creative personal pizzas and tempting small plates and salads, Pinons is that rare establishment that has managed to snag Youngs Farm pies for dessert. Robinson, who also owns Cold Spring Harbor Wine Shoppe, always has an interesting selection of wines and beers. More info: 516-801-3200, pinonspizza.com

Metropolitan Restaurant & Bar (3 Pratt Blvd., Glen Cove): Like a number of the Island’s catering halls, this long-standing facility has pivoted toward restauranting of late, attractively repurposing two capacious halls into socially-distant dining rooms. But don’t overlook the new eatery’s quaint outdoor area. The fenced-in patio, which seats just 20, is unavoidably intimate yet a fine choice for longish happy hours after work, thanks to a straightforward cocktail list and chef Anthony Falco’s menu, featuring small plates like tuna tartare and pan-seared diver scallops, shareable cauliflower crust pizzas, plates of tacos and more. More info: 516-671-4444, metropolitandining.com

Flora (149 Main St., Westhampton Beach): The reconstruction of Westhampton Beach’s Main Street was completed last year and, defining the eastern limit is one of the prettiest traffic circles on Long Island. That’s the setting for Flora, the newest venture from the Rooted Hospitality Group that operates al fresco powerhouses Rumba and Cowfish in Hampton Bays and Rhum in Patchogue. The whole restaurant evinces the expected floral theme, but nowhere so much as on the covered patio, a perfect perch for people-watching (not to mention BMW- and Jaguar-watching). Flora’s menu features a contemporary lineup of multi-element dishes such as pickled deviled eggs with pancetta, Fresno peppers, chives and celery ribbons; warm lobster roll with tarragon aioli, the Flora burger with havarti, pickled onion, black-garlic aioli, truffled arugula and tomatoes; grilled filet mignon with wild-mushroom demi glacé and mashed potatoes. More info: 631-998-9600, florawhb.com

Bigelow’s (79 N. Long Beach Rd., Rockville Centre): The pandemic had at least one upside: It inspired the owners of Bigelow’s to build an outdoor dining room. Since 1938, seats at Long Island’s epicenter of Ipswich (fried whole-belly) clams — and other fantastic fried fish — were limited to the cramped counter, but the six-foot rule put the kibosh on that. So the Andreolas brothers erected a 36-seat pavilion in the parking lot that can be zipped up and heated in the winter, peeled down to the screens in the summer. Also on offer: craft beer and a small selection of desserts from nearby Front Street Bakery. More info: 516-678-3878, bigelows-rvc.com

Peconic County Brewing (221 Main St., Riverhead). Around the back of the brand-new Riverview Lofts building is one of the choicest open-air hideaways in Riverhead — an elevated deck with handsome, cushioned lounge areas for 75 people, plus a view of the Peconic River. Orders are taken at the inside counter for ales and beers (such as witbier, nitro stout and myriad IPAs) produced by head brewer James Miller, while chef Luke Andrews' full kitchen cranks out considered flatbreads, cheese toasties, wings, burgers and lobster rolls. Then, if you can snag one of the first-come, first-served seats on the patio, especially during the weekend, soak in some live music with the sunshine. The brewery opens daily at noon. More info: 631-740-9797, peconiccountybrewing.com

The Ugly Duckling (906 W. Beech St., Long Beach): This new eatery, which quickly built a following due to its duck theme (all cocktails and grub come with a rubber duck), offers al fresco dining next to its front door, right on Wisconsin street (away from the busier stretch on W. Beech Street). Five tables — room for up to six people at each — are divided by tall, lush box planters. Overhead lights and a retractable awning make up the rest of the area, along with a row of large glass windows, which makes it possible for diners on the outside to watch TV on the flat screens hanging above the bar inside. Kitchen turns out everything from pulled duck nachos, tacos and wings to salads, burgers and more. More info: 516-208-3383, theuglyducklinglb.com

Hunter the Restaurant (1053 Oyster Bay Rd., East Norwich): At this upscale French-inspired bistro, the brick patio out front is set up with a little more than a handful of tables that can fit up to 22 people. Cantilever umbrellas and plants, too, make up the inviting, earthy space where customers can nosh on chef-owner Hunter Wells’ straightforward approach to classic dishes such as steak frites, bouillabaisse and paella and duck a l’orange. More info: 516-624-8330, hunterrestaurant.com

Prince Umberto's (721 Franklin Ave., Franklin Square): Owner Maria Caliendo, has added an outdoor area with free games for "the kids to have a place to come and hang out," while also tilting her menus to please the younger crowd, too. Situated across four parking spots in front of the Italian restaurant-pizzeria, the tent exudes old-school Italian vibes, with bright red cushioned banquet-style chairs and red-and-white checkered table cloths. Two barrel tables double as chess and checkers boards and a foosball table is nearby. The most popular eats include wings (with choice of 12 sauces) and personal pizzas that can be made with a cauliflower crust. An expanded desserts menu now features pistachio cheesecake and rainbow cake by the slice, boozy ices and ice cream. Caliendo's gluten free menu isn't lacking either — customers can choose from more than 30 items, including calamari, rice balls, baked gnocchi and chicken parm. More info: 516-872-9049, princeumberto.com

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