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Passione in Carle Place: First Bites

Lunch at the new Passione in Carle Place left me more puzzled than passionate.

The restaurant, under the same ownership as Emilio’s in Commack, Pasta-Eria in Hicksville and Fanatico in Jericho, has an attractive pizzeria on one side. In the main dining room, all the stops have been pulled out: Lots of burnished gold, antique looking fixtures and a wall of booths raised up on carpeted platforms, framed by tieback drapery.

What caught my attention on the menu was the daily changing bento lunchbox, $16.95, a concept borrowed from Japanese restaurants. What I got wasn't exactly a box but rather four bowls set atop a large oblong plate. One bowl held a savory, although lukewarm, pasta e fagiole. Another, a respectable chicken Parmigiana. In the third was a  balsamic-dressed salad I stopped eating after the first bite; it was candy-sweet. So, too, surprisingly, was the sauce over the spaghetti in the fourth bowl. I know the kind of vibrant red sauce executive chef/co-owner Emilio Branchinelli has turned out at his other restaurants, so this one came as a shocker. A fluke? I'll find out next time.

I ended up filching bites of my companion's juicy grilled chicken Caprese panino with pesto mayonnaise, $10.95,  a sandwich I found bright and appealing.

Passione is at 231 Old Country Rd., Carle Place, 516-741-4800.

Above: Bento lunch box at Passione in Carle Place