Vibrant and fiery penne arrabiata at Pepe Rosso 24 in...

Vibrant and fiery penne arrabiata at Pepe Rosso 24 in Port Washington. (December 2012) Credit: Newsday Joan Reminick

It had been close to two years since my last visit to Port Washington's Pepe Rosso 24, a casual pizzeria-ristorante. Back in January of 2011, the place received a three-star rating because its food set it apart from the masses of seemingly similar places on Long Island. How, I wondered, would it fare today?

Right now, I'd give it a strong two and a half stars. The ultra-thin crusted Margherita "personal" pizza ($8.95)  was just as crisp and meltingly good as ever. I was impressed — but not totally — by a quinoa salad of fluffy grains, raisins, apples and pecans atop a humdrum mesclun mix, a refreshing lime vinaigrette on the side ($9.95). Minestrone ($5.50), however, was entirely bland.

Among pastas, penne arrabbiata ($11.95) was properly “angry,” thanks to a vibrant chili-fired tomato sauce toned down by pieces of of fresh mozzarella that half-melted into the mix. Fettuccine al tartufo ($14.95) starred sauteed porcini mushroom in a brown Cognac sauce drizzled with white truffle oil. A bit less truffle would have put more of an emphasis on the woodsy mushrooms. While I liked the unconventional chicken Rocco ($14.95)  — sauteed boneless breasts topped with sopressata, pignoli nuts and fresh mozzarella in a light tomato basil sauce — the poultry was a bit overcooked.

What won me totally was a warm, flaky-crusted pecan tart ($6.95) served with freshly whipped cream and a garnish of buttery house-baked cookies. So homey, so good.

Pepe Rosso 24 is at 24 Manorhaven Blvd., Port Washington, 516-944-9477,

Above: The vibrant penne arrabiatta at Pepe Rosso 24 in Port Washington