It's a little tricky to locate this eatery located in a strip mall off Jericho Turnpike, but anyone who seeks it out will be rewarded with a reasonably priced menu full of well-executed Italian specialties. Service is particularly warm and efficient.
Noon-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; Noon-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.
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One chill evening, I was warmed by a bowl of Italian wedding soup, the robust chicken stock floating savory miniature meatballs in a tangle of escarole. A Caesar salad featured bright, crisp romaine and a dressing just rich and cheesy enough. In the case of the calamari salad — tender squid over iceberg lettuce — the dressing (which the menu gave as white truffle oil and lemon) was missing something crucial. I suspect that someone substituted plain olive oil and forgot the salt and pepper. What surprised me, though, was how compelling the grilled vegetables were - thinly sliced but not wilted, with a light char on the surface, smoky and subtly garlicky. A melting eggplant rollatine proved pleasing, too.
All too often, veal at bargain prices turns out to be something chewy and flavorless — no bargain at all. Here, however, the $12 veal scallopini in a deeply flavorsome and not overly sweet Marsala sauce could be cut with a fork. A friend's veal alla pizzaola, sauteed with peppers, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and no shortage of garlic, was lively and every bit as appealing.
Chicken scarpariello — boneless pieces sauteed in olive oil with garlic, lemon, roasted peppers and lots of fresh herbs — was a dish that was rustic yet refined. I was impressed, too, with the shrimp Francese, jumbo shellfish in a buttery lemon and white wine sauce.
Twice, my pasta was served al dente, an ideal rarely met at most restaurants in this price range. Rigatoni Amatriciana — stubby tubes in a bacon, tomato, basil and onion sauce — was a hearty smoky indulgence. And I found myself eating way too much of the penne Bolognese, the meat sauce striking a balance between mellow and spirited.
Two house-made desserts, a chocolate-crusted Italian cheesecake and an airy tiramisu, were worthy finales. The cappuccino was strong, the way it should be.
This spot is in a center that's both difficult to find and nearly impossible to make a left turn into or out of. But location isn't the draw here.
Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 11/25/05.