(THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED; REPLACED BY SPERANZA FOOD STUDIO AT THIS LOCATION)
Stresa East makes you want to dine out again.
This is the elegant offspring of Stresa in Manhasset and the departed Navona of Great Neck. The new place combines the best of both, smoothly overseen by Giorgio Meriggi and Pasquale Cervera.
What makes Stresa East even more impressive is the handsome transformation of a space that has hosted more dives than an Olympic swimming pool. And the cost of a four-star meal is remarkably in line with reality.
The dining room casts a soft glow. It's shaded in pale beige, with polished wood wainscoting and accents. A stunning floral display greets you, as in Manhasset.
The fare is similar, too, from delectable little arancini, or rice balls, and fried vegetables that may be the evening's gratis opener, to the house's robust four-bean, country-style soup, bubbling beneath a light pastry dome. A fragrant soup of lentils, peas and onions rivals the hearty campagnola for cool-weather appeal.
Nutty, sweet scallops in their shells are delicately finished with white wine, garlic and tomato. A portobello mushroom cap is stuffed with a savory mix of chopped leek and artichoke heart. The stuffed artichoke itself is a soulful oreganata.
Pastas and risotti are outstanding. Especially fine: the mellow, creamy risotto with spinach and at-attention asparagus spears. Airy malfatti, barely bound ricotta-and-spinach dumplings, float in a puree of basil-spiked tomato. Tagliatelle with a rustic meat sauce gets a zesty shower of dry ricotta. Homey cannelloni are updated with a well-seasoned vegetable stuffing.
Potatoes, mushrooms, onions and peppers are paired with chicken and sausage in a gutsy pollo della Nonna, suggesting superior scarpariello. Bistecca alla King, adroitly charred, rosy and sliced under a mantle of mushrooms is a full-flavored very serious eater's choice named for comedian Alan. Rack of lamb, juicy, pink and rife with rosemary, is presented tableside and then sliced as if unfurling.
Red snapper appears in a lobster sauce that could be a bit more intense. A moist slab of broiled salmon finds a spirited complement with horseradish sauce.
All this leads to a series of superb sweets. Lush zabaglione floats near-plum-size blackberries. The pristine, vanilla-scented poached pear is a perfect still life. Rich, flourless chocolate cake; a buttery apple tart; espresso-fueled tiramisu; lemon cake; panna cotta; creme brulee and ricotta cheesecake are all recommended.
But they're really preludes to the tricounty's supreme chocolate and raspberry souffles, rising like fragile toques.
Nibble on the classic biscotti. Have a glass of vin santo. And toast Stresa East and good times to come.
Peter M. Gianotti