Toscanini conducts with familiar style, staying in tune with Italian basics. It attracts regulars, in equal parts, for some good food and a very friendly manner.
The look is pleasant enough, with exposed brick arches and a wall-length mural of green countryside from an Italy of the imagination. Blackboards list specials. Plates overflow. And surprises are as rare as catching Dover sole in Manhasset Bay.
Even if you've never been here, you've been here.
Just in case early spring keeps cool, there's a hearty, savory white bean-and-cabbage soup to warm you. The competition comes from the lighter stracciatelle alla Romana. The generous stuffed artichoke, well-seasoned and tender, deserves to be designated a special. And the thin-crust, satisfying pizza Margherita shows off the brick oven. Toscanini's shrimp cocktail: three fine, big ones. Just avoid the thin, acidic sauce in favor of a squirt of lemon. "Imperatore" understandably heads the salads, with arugula, endive, diced tomatoes and Gorgonzola cheese. The kitchen's better pastas stick to the standards. Consider a satisfying spaghetti in tomato sauce, boosted by veal-and-beef meatballs. Or fill up with hefty lasagna, which comes with beef and sausage plus cheese. Diamonds of polenta with shiitake-mushroom sauce; and asparagus oreganata are highlights, too. Sole with capers in butter sauce; and salmon, loosely defined Livornese with fusilli, head the seafood entrees. Creamy tiramisu handily is the top sweet, unless you're drawn to what must be the least-known regional Italian finale, Oreo ice-cream cake.
Pan-fried mozzarella, wrapped in prosciutto and finished in lemon-white wine sauce, is limp and lackluster. Bow-tie pasta materializes in a harsh tomato-garlic-basil sauce, marred by undercooked eggplant. The thick veal chop under a mantle of peppers, onions and mushrooms: chewy. Toscanini's "Tuscan grill" combines a ringlet of thin, charred sausage and a paillard of crosshatched, dry chicken, atop hard white beans, tomatoes and greens. Arid Italian cheesecake, metallic lemon-meringue pie.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Keep it simple.