1277 E. Jericho Tpke., Huntington
SERVICE: Genial, attentive
AMBIENCE: Storefront with homey style
ESSENTIALS: Open Tuesday to Sunday, starting at 4 p.m.; closed Monday. Major credit cards accepted; wheelchair accessible
The town of Ravello in Italy is perched above the Tyrrhenian Sea, as if suspended between land and sky. Its namesake restaurant on Jericho Turnpike is more down to earth.
You reach the evocative aerie and its vistas via some very twisty Italian roads. You’re onto them after you’ve mastered the curves of the Amalfi Drive, a road chiseled into the cliffs, that affords beautiful views and an occasional bout with fear, particularly when a bus is careening toward your cozy, rumbling Fiat.
Jericho Turnpike is the route toward Ravello in Huntington. And, at the right time of day, when motorists are intent on ignoring the speed limit and routinely cut you off, there’s more than a hint of danger in this ride, too.
But Ravello Ristorante is a calm, easygoing destination, taking over the former site of Il Vecchio Forno, remembered mainly for its pizza served by the meter.
The pizza is gone, but the oven and the design of the place have stayed the same, with plenty of tilework, some framed mirrors, an artful tribute to graters of all sorts, and vintage kitchenware, mainly pots and pans, lined up above the counter, interrupted by a TV tuned to news.
The headline here is provided by chef Tony Dushaj and a very welcoming, attentive dining room staff. The menu isn’t exactly loaded with surprises. But you may not want any.
Order the special stuffed artichoke appetizer. This taste of spring arrives quartered, well-seasoned and sporting the tang of melted Gorgonzola cheese. You may resist sharing either petals or heart with anyone at your table. Gorgonzola and pancetta turn a satisfying wedge salad Italianate. The Caesar salad could use more dressing. but it’s going in the right direction. Burrata with prosciutto and roasted tomatoes is a popular, straightforward choice.
Wood-oven baked clams are ample and satisfactory. But they could use a boost of flavor in the bland bread crumbs. Fried calamari: generous and crisp. And both the pasta e fagioli and minestrone soups are good on one of those still-chilly early spring nights.
Ravello’s pastas are headed by a husky, meaty slab of lasagna, a special that should be a regular. Paccheri alla Bolognese also is hefty stuff, savory and deftly sauced. But fettuccine alla carbonara materializes on the dry side and seems far removed from even the most distant memory of a Roman holiday.
Rigatoni is the pasta supporting a generous special of beef braciola, sausage and meatball, a dish sure to have a following whether it’s Sunday or any other day of the week. Chicken Parmigiana: a mainstay, well-done, that could feed two.
But the spin on what’s described as veal chop Milanese features veal pounded as thinly as a deli might slice cold cuts. It’s sandwiched between double-thick coats of breading, which become the basic flavor. The expected crispness is quickly undone by a bland brownish sauce with mushrooms. Have your veal chop unadorned.
That wood-burning oven is the source of an excellent roast chicken, juicy and tender, spurred by lemon and rosemary. Whole branzino, snowy and moist, leads the school of fish, with competition from sole oreganata and black sea bass Livornese.
The desserts include a respectable wedge of cheesecake and tiramisu. If you’re really feeling nostalgic, they do have tortoni.
La Rondinaia, the former villa of the late Gore Vidal, clings to a cliff in Ravello, where the acerbic and prolific writer lived for decades. Imagine what he’d have said when advised there’s no spumoni.