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The Trattoria review

Tenderloin of pork is paired with apple-braised cabbage

Tenderloin of pork is paired with apple-braised cabbage at The Trattoria in St. James. Credit: Daniel Brennan

The Trattoria is the Trattoria.

Steven Gallagher, chef at Kitchen A Trattoria, bought the celebrated St. James spot in November and renamed it. Now, the restaurant is all his -- and even better.

The look has stayed pretty much the same as it was under Eric Lomando, who still runs the vibrant Kitchen A Bistro in St. James and Orto in Miller Place. Black-and-white photos, including one of the house's ravioli, decorate the unpretentious dining room. The tablecloth-free style goes with Gallagher's "rustic Italian" fare.

He changes the menu daily. But the results invariably are the same. This is a creative, genuine, fairly priced destination, worth toasting with your prime BYO wine.

Nibble on the excellent bread, and add house-made, lemony ricotta, sun-dried tomato tapenade and marinated olives. Then, consider the three-course fixed-price approach, the chef's tasting menu, or the a la carte reverie. The basic advice is to sample as many antipasti, primi and secondi as you can.

Memorable openers: soulful ribollita, the traditional soup of leftover vegetables, here fresh and enriched with chicken; smooth butternut squash soup with almond crostini; savory, tomato-braised meatballs with polenta; attentively baked littleneck clams; an appetizing salad of roasted beets with fennel, arugula, ricotta salata and pistachios. Slightly overdone shrimp with fennel puree and green harissa; and overorchestrated port-balsamic glazed ribs trail them a bit. The still-life of roasted garlic and tangy Gorgonzola, served with toasts, is very flavorful company.

Gallagher's pastas are terrific, from the smoky-sweet spaghetti all'Amatriciana and superrich bucatini alla carbonara to hearty paccheri with a suckling-pig ragù, and delicate squash-and-apple ravioli with dates and sage brown butter. And veer Bolognese with either pappardelle in meat sauce or the light, five-layer lasagna. He also prepares a grand eggplant alla Parmigiana.

Hake swims in on a puree of parsnips with Brussels sprouts and chestnuts for a fine fish course. Ocean trout arrives on a delectable raft of red cabbage and beluga lentils. Braised cabbage and rye gnocchi boost the juicy loin of pork; potato puree and spinach, the tender roasted chicken. The flaky, vinous brasato of beef finds its complement with creamy polenta.

Flourless chocolate-almond cake, maple-mascarpone cheesecake, the apple or pear crostata, and a chocolate-vanilla, two-tier crème brûlée are superior desserts.

Reserve a table -- soon.


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