Barely a month after it opened in the former home of Brooks & Porter, Savoy Tavern has a new chef and a revised menu. Kenneth Pulomena, who saw the kitchen through its opening, has been replaced by Alexis Trolf, formerly of Caffe Laguna and Swingbelly’s in Long Beach.
Our first bites of the new set up were not promising. Panelle, the great Sicilian chickpea fritters, appear here as both bar snacks and slider fillings. When the restaurant opened, the sliders were made with rolls from Spiga Bakery in Bellmore. Those rolls have been replaced with cottony, characterless mini burger buns. The panelle themselves were too small, rendering them more redolent of “fry” than of “chickpea.” Sicily should sue. “Tuscan” pork buns labored under the same bun handicap.
A chopped salad made with “select vegetables” and “market greens” was nothing more than chopped mesclun with some segments of blanched green beans, asparagus and carrots. A request that the chef dress the salad with lemon and olive oil was ignored; the salad was served with a dish of olive oil on the side. (Chefs: If you want me to dress my own salad, please provide a large-enough bowl, a pepper mill and a pair of tongs.)
An iceberg wedge was actually a slab, topped with a gloppy mixture of tomato, bacon and Gorgonzola-buttermilk dressing.
Meatloaf was dense and inedibly salty. A pan-seared veal chop ($30) was actually butterflied, breaded and pan fried. It held none of the juicy promise that made us order it. I liked the chewy texture of the cavatelli in the mac & cheese (my companions did not) but we all agreed that the cheese was too soupy. We also all agreed that our friendly, efficient server was the best part of the meal.
I understand that sometimes the market demands that a restaurant scale back its ambitions. Polenta is replaced by mashed potatoes. A Berkshire pork chop is replaced by less exalted meat. A wines-by-the-glass list gives varietals but not winemakers. But there’s no market for food that doesn’t taste good.
The Savoy Tavern is at 16 Merrick Ave., Merrick, 516-506-7717.