Not only are small plates a local dining trend -- they're a nationwide phenomenon. Here are Long Island restaurants where small plates rule, selected by Peter M. Gianotti and Joan Reminick.
Lost & Found
Lost and Found, Long Beach: Chef-owner Alexis Trolf offers a quirky, highly personal spot with about 30-some seats and an array of small plates meant for sharing. Among the recommended dishes are the charred octopus, with lemon and chickpeas (pictured); vitello tonnato, sheaves of chilled veal finished with tangy, tuna-sparked mayo; truffled potatoes with aioli; and a refreshing hillock of shaved carrots entwined with matchsticks of Honeycrisp apple, and yogurt visited by Indian spices.
Cafe Mendoza, Commack: You'll find excellent wines, plus cocktails and digestifs here. And they complement a wide-ranging selection of tapas. Recommended are the spinach gnocchi with bay scallops in a shiitake mushroom cream sauce (pictured); braised pork belly, with nuggets of roasted sweet potato, dates and figs in a Port reduction; sauteed chickpeas matched with zesty longaniza sausage; and a special of tender octopus with chickpeas and chimichurri.
Bluestone Tavern, West Sayville: It's as if someone had taken a magic wand to the former 21 Main, transforming the pricey, stuffy steakhouse into someplace hip, young and affordable. John Menz's menu, headlined by whimsical, spirited appetizers, works well in the strikingly attractive setting. Recommendations include short rib sliders, meatball Parm pops, a meatball flight and a marinated sirloin sandwich. Finish with "milk and cookies" i.e., a mini chocolate shake with two warm chocolate chip cookies placed rakishly atop.
Tullulah's, Bay Shore: Steven Scalesse's stylized restaurant includes full-flavored food and good local beers to pair with it. Try the charcuterie board (pictured), highlighted by spicy, dry Calabrian sausage and espresso-rubbed Barely Buzzed cheese. Also good: fried Sexton Island oysters; sliced chorizo with brown-sugar-glazed apples and sriracha aioli; and baked cauliflower with aged Cheddar, pork belly and a crumble of Brussels sprouts.
Uva Rossa, Malverne: A bustling spot where, even on weeknights, every seat at the bar and communal table can be occupied. Chef-owner Antonio Bove serves up Italianate small plates, including a trio of bruschette (pictured), eggplant "meatballs" and fresh pappardelle with a veal ragu.
Cafe Buenos Aires
Cafe Buenos Aires, Huntington: The cuisine of Argentina stands out here. But one of the most popular menus covers the kitchen's spins on tapas: stuffed oysters, grilled sardines, paella with chorizo sausage, garlicky shrimp, assorted empanadas and, of course, Serrano ham. Most small plates in the $8 to $12 range.
Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas
Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas, Garden City: The offshoot of a New Jersey "concept" restaurant features a quasi-industrial look defined by metal, subway tile, wood and brick. As you sip your wine -- there are plenty of interesting selections by the bottle and glass, and even a few on tap -- consider a bruschetta, including one topped with seared tuna, chili peppers, olives and lemon zest on a slice of baguette. Also good: hearty yet meltingly light ricotta gnocchi with a homey braised wild boar ragout (pictured); lush small funghi pizza with Portobello mushrooms, fontina and truffle oil; and classic spaghetti carbonara with bacon, peas, egg.
Plancha Tapas & Wine Bar
Plancha Tapas and Wine Bar, Garden City: A sister restaurant to Salumi Tapas and Wine Bar in Massapequa, the difference here is the flat-top Spanish grill -- or plancha -- behind the bar. A lunch special of octopus salad with roasted red peppers (pictured) is tender and delicious; also notable are patatas bravas, roasted fingerling potatoes with a spicy red sauce and heady cumin aioli; mini panino of sopressata, Italian cheeses and Spanish paprika; and pork belly bocadillo, a messy little sandwich made with kimchee, sesame mayo, lime and cilantro.
Swallow, Huntington: One of the sharpest restaurants in downtown Huntington, the decor is contemporary and eclectic, much like the food. Winners include the soy-braised short ribs finished with green onion, cashews and chilies (pictured); grilled baby octopus accented with pomegranate seeds, pancetta and shishito peppers; grilled skirt steak with horseradish, capers, shallots and a hint of pinot noir; and the savory shrimp po'boy with heirloom tomatoes and sauce rémoulade.
Ichiz, Huntington: Sleek and contemporary, Ichiz is at ease with traditional as well as nouveau fare. Notable choices include the tuna bruschetta with avocado and tomato; filet mignon sliders with wasabi mayonnaise; steamed sea bass with ginger, soy and pesto; napa cabbage salad with daikon, edamame and miso vinaigrette. Most small plates $6 to $18.
Roots Bistro Gourmand
Roots Bistro Gourmand, West Islip: Plates large and small star at Roots Bistro Gourmand, a creative union of cuisines. Recommended: pressed suckling pig, butter-poached lobster, poached egg on polenta, root-vegetable terrine, risotto "lollipops," steak tartare, duck confit. Most small plates in the $12 to $16 range.
Espana Tapas and Wine Bar
Espana Tapas & Wine Bar, St. James: At this classically Spanish tapas and wine bar, host Julio Caro will guide you through the roster of traditional small plates. Try the tender Galician-style octopus with sweet and spicy paprika, as well as the assorted Spanish meats and cheeses, the crisp patas bravas and croquetas de jamon -- crunchy little ham croquettes. Most small plates range from $7 to $11.
Salumi Tapas and Wine Bar
Salumi Tapas & Wine Bar, Massapequa: Rustic wood furnishings and a Euro-tavern vibe define this South Shore wine bar, where the globally sourced cured meats and cheeses may be ordered individually or as "boards." The mix of Mediterranean small plates includes smoked anchovies with mascarpone, tender octopus with tomatillo salsa and pepitas, flaky empanadas and roasted Brussels sprouts with chestnut cream. Most range from $6 to $10.
Vinoco Wine Bar and Tapas Restaurant
Vinoco Wine Bar & Tapas Restaurant, Mineola: A global assortment of small plates are the order at this convivial wine bar. Hits include savory paella croquettes, irresistible steamed Asian buns stuffed with pork belly and hoisin sauce, well-marinated chicken skewers and flaky empanadas filled with wild mushroom and cheese. Most small plates from $8 to $12.
Viaggio Tapas, Rockville Centre: While other restaurants annex the word "tapas" almost as fast and freely as they appropriate "bistro" and "grill", Viaggio Tapas earns the right. This restaurant brings a taste of authentic tapas to the Long Island table: Shrimp heads served in a spicy sauce with chorizo (pictured), zucchini flatbread with caramelized onions, goat cheese and spiced honey, and their smoked Basque oysters.