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Primo Piatto

Rice balls are one of the appetizers served

Rice balls are one of the appetizers served at Primo Piatto, an Italian restaurant in Huntington. (Jan. 13, 2012) Credit: Jeremy Bales

If there is, somewhere, a meatball hall of fame, then the spheres served at the new Primo Piatto in Huntington deserve a place there. The Sicilian-style recipe, from owner Fabrizio Castelli's late mother-in-law, produces meatballs tender and lush, spiced with a mix of boldness and balance and sauced with a bright marinara that coats every al dente strand of spaghetti underneath. I could live on that dish.

But, then, I'd have to bypass other specialties at this atmospheric pizzeria-trattoria. I wouldn't want to miss the creamy risotto balls filled with a meat ragu and blanketed in house-made mozzarella and marinara. Or the colorful, crisp-crusted Margherita personal pizza. Or the Amarea salad of grilled shrimp and artichokes topped with shaved Parmesan and an eye-opening lemon vinaigrette.

An authentic Sicilian dish that doesn't often turn up on suburban Italian menus is bucatini chi sardi -- long, tubular pasta in a rich sardine sauce laced with pine nuts, raisins, saffron, bread crumbs and wild fennel. A fine version of spaghetti with white clam sauce features clams in and out of their shells with tomatoes and white wine. And order me another round of the meaty and robust rigatoni Bolognese.

On the Monday pasta night menu -- and available by request at other times -- is a first-rate penne arrabbiata, or "angry" penne. Love the way its peppery sauce leaves my palate tingling. But I'm a bit surprised that the gnocchi with tomato sauce is topped with melted mozzarella, which weighs the dish down. And I find myself underwhelmed by an entree of broccoli rabe and sausage.

Chicken pizzaiola is made with boneless breasts rather than bone-in pieces, as its lusty peasant-style tomato-caper-pepper-onion sauce might demand. Nonetheless, it's quite good. So, too, is an entree of nicely sauteed salmon with braised cannellini beans. Most desserts are from an outside source. There's perfectly respectable cheesecake and tartufo.

I'd just as soon skip the added calories and go for an extra meatball. Or two.

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