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Pietro Cucina Italiana opens in former Kitchen A Bistro space in St. James

Anitpasti of grilled eggplant with goat cheese, red

Anitpasti of grilled eggplant with goat cheese, red peppers and honey at Pietro Cucina Italiana, which has opened in the St. James spot where Kitchen A Bistro operated for 20 years. Photo Credit: Newsday/Corin Hirsch

Some knew it as Mirabelle, many as Kitchen A Bistro. Now the former farmhouse near the corner of North Country Road and Edgewood Avenue in St. James is wearing an Italian face, at least on the inside: Pietro Cucina Italiana, which opened a few days ago.

After Kitchen A Bistro closed in the spot in June —  after a 20-year run — New York City restaurateurs Pietro and Kelly Molendini took over the space. The former co-owners of Vite Vinosteria in Astoria, Queens, who had  moved from the city to Centerport, spent the summer renovating the dining room to a modern, clean look with neutral tones and contemporary artwork from Pietro Molendini's native Rome. They also expanded the bar from about four to 11 seats.

Pietro Molendini has spent 30 years in the food industry, with a decade of that at Cipriani and stints at both Bar Pitti and Da Silvano. Along the way, he met chef Fabian Garcia Manca, who eventually headed the kitchen at Vito Vinosteria and now joins the Molendinis in St. James. Kelly Molendini said Manca and her husband scour the tristate area and beyond for ingredients. "They are never home," she joked, and said that the pair source some of their meat from the Bronx, burrata from New Jersey and dried pasta from Italy and Sicily.

Manca grew up in Argentina, and his menu takes a thoughtful and often meat-forward approach to Italian fare. Antipasti ($17 to $22) includes a rib-eye carpaccio with poached pears and stracciatella cheese, crispy goat with roasted potatoes and whipped baccala with polenta. Pastas, some of which are made here, range from spinach gnocchi with a white-truffle cream sauce to paccheri in a short-rib ragu, as well as a saffron risotto served with roasted bone marrow. Entrees travel from rustic, such as lamb shank stew with polenta, to grilled veal chop with shiitake mushrooms and roasted halibut in a saffron sauce. Pastas and main courses ring in at $20 to $29, and vegetable sides, such as carrots with lemon and mint, are $8 each.

Pietro's cozy bar is still being stocked, but the heavily Italian wine list look promising, with lambrusco, falanghina and negroamaro offered by the glass, and several bottles in the $40 to $50 range.

Pietro Cucina Italiana opens at 4 p.m. for dinner every day but Monday; lunch service is planned.

Pietro Cucina Italiana, 404 N. Country Rd., St. James. 631-862-6129. pietro631.com

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