SALUMI TAPAS & WINE BAR
5600 Merrick Rd., Massapequa
AMBIENCE: Dressed up neighborhood grotto features compelling small plates, an interesting wine selection and desserts.
ESSENTIALS: Lunch and dinner, noon to 11 p.m. Monday, noon to midnight Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday. No reservations, major credit cards accepted, parking lot
Halfway down the bar toward the kitchen at Salumi Tapas & Wine Bar in Massapequa, Spanish serrano ham rests in a jamonero — a stand that holds meat steady for cutting to order. It’s a primal display and an essential prop to the theater of the restaurant.
While the salty, rich serrano is the star of the cured meats, it’s not the most rare on this menu. That designation is reserved for Spain’s celebrated jamon Iberico, perfectly marbled and almost nutty-tasting, the product of black Iberian pigs that dine on acorns.
Salumi Tapas & Wine Bar is not new, but it’s astonishingly good and has been getting better since it opened in 2011. You should visit for the top-notch meats and cheeses along with lusty tapas on a menu that changes according to what’s in season and available. Salumi’s wine list goes beyond expectations, studded with sherries and Spanish and Italian varietals. And with a next-door cafe and market that opened last year, Salumi has become as much a destination for breakfast as it is for an after-dinner drink.
Tucked among a nail salon and a dry cleaner in a strip mall, this cozy neighborhood spot has improved with age because the owners, Josh Kobrin and Lilly Kanarova, are sticklers for detail. With the help of chefs Jon and Liz Cano, they have assembled a collection of dishes that show off pedigreed ingredients without being stuffy or didactic. And they’ve applied this formula to sibling restaurant Plancha Tapas & Wine Bar, which they opened in Garden City in 2013.
Start your visit with a glass of fino sherry, verdejo or another Spanish varietal and a few of those meats or cheeses, such as the zesty Manchego, creamy cana de cabra, spicy chorizo or bold capicola. A trio starts around $18, while a meat and cheese board for sharing is $32, with condiments. That jamon Iberico, by the way, is a $15 upcharge, which is why less expensive serrano is a best seller.
Pay attention to the man behind the bar, sommelier Andrew Isaacson, shifting his attention between customers, spirits and wine bottles stacked in cubbies above shelves. He’s the guy who will help you decide between a glass of cava, a Fleurie Beaujolais or Manzanilla to sip with sherry-loving friends.
Vegetables are pretty remarkable, from the smoked carrots with white barbecue sauce and pecans to the roasted baby artichokes with Caesar dressing and bread crumbs. Brussels sprouts arrive intensely savory with miso aioli and a hint of caramelized sweetness. Sunchokes with lemon confit, fried capers and respectable (real) balsamic are strangely seductive for a modest tuber.
Among meat-based tapas, go for the morcilla, near-black with blood as seasoning, the sausage served with piquillo pepper jam. It’s a jewel of the menu. But shrimp tapas served with garlic in the classic Spanish style are translucent and undercooked.
Salumi’s rustic Italian loaves, baguettes, focaccia and biscuits fall among the best bread you’ll find in a restaurant on Long Island. With a crisp, caramel-colored exterior and soft crumb, the baguette is the base for the terrific pork belly bocadillo, slathered with kimchee, cilantro and sesame mayo. You may think you’re over pork belly, but not after a bite of this.
Coffee service, which includes espresso and cappuccino, was introduced last year, courtesy of Georgio’s Coffee Roasters in Farmingdale. Plan on an espresso with dessert, such as toast dressed with olive oil and sea salt — served with a cup of dark chocolate and Nutella for dipping. Its simplicity is captivating.