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Zucchini squares -- grilled zucchini wrapped around seasoned

Zucchini squares -- grilled zucchini wrapped around seasoned ricotta cheese and served with olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, grated cheese and white truffle oil -- are served at Serata in Oyster Bay. (Aug. 26, 2011) Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

Diners nostalgic about the Mill River Inn will enter the old address and find what must be, short of bulldozing, the year's most extreme makeover.

Maybe it's the combination of televisions and disco balls, the crystal chandelier or the exposed ductwork; perhaps the illuminated signs for "bagno" and "fuoco," or the "Come Fly With Me," "Mala Femina" voices of Frank Sinatra and Jerry Vale. Possibly the focal-point bar or the aphorisms on the walls, the canopy with the "S."

But what really makes the difference here is that everybody seems to be having a high-decibel good time instead of keeping to hushed tones and reverential nods.

Basically, what used to be a 14-table room with subtle gray wainscoting, serene Planting Fields photos and baroque music is, as one night's classic movie-on-TV underscored, via col vento.

The food is hearty and no-nonsense. Enjoy it.

THE BEST

So order that straightforward appetizer of meatballs and salad, a homey little lunch posing as an appetizer. Try the combo of shrimp and clams finished with white wine and garlic, two rafts of grilled bread afloat in the broth. Sample the squares of zucchini stuffed with well-seasoned ricotta and made into packages before they're drizzled with balsamic vinegar and white truffle oil. Cut into the eggplant tower, breaded and fried, layered with mozzarella, dotted with olive oil and a few more drops of balsamic vinegar. Refresh yourself with a fennel salad. And then order pasta Serata, pappardelle in a luxe cream sauce, with Parmesan and pecorino cheeses, wrapped up with ribbons of prosciutto. Penne with crushed pistachios, onion, white wine, olive oil and cream is a diverting alternative. Of course, the linguine with white clam sauce is fine. Likewise, juicy sliced strip steak, dubbed "blackened Tuscan," and very nutty sole amandine. Respectable cannoli.

THE REST

Dry spaghetti Bolognese, chewy grilled octopus, overcooked tuna, stemmy broccoli rabe "sliders," overdone chicken Parm sliders, standard-issue branzino, routine cheesecake.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Lighten up.

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