Trattoria Diane is on a Roman holiday.
Chef-owner John Durkin has remade his restaurant, looking to Lazio and channeling his inner Etruscan. The result is wonderful: a vacation from every generic Italian meal you've had on Long Island.
Durkin moves a province south from his previous Tuscan theme, but hasn't totally abandoned the region, which de-Frenched the kitchen more than a dozen years ago.
Durkin keeps some of the popular dishes, notably the "Tuscan" pot roast with Parmesan-mashed potatoes and the three-berry pie. But his latest affection for Roman dishes is the new reason to eat here.
The dining room also has been restyled a bit, while remaining a very attractive, understated, rustic spot, from the exposed brick floor upward. Dinner is so refreshing, you'll feel like tossing a coin in a fountain before reaching for a credit card.
Vegetables finally become stars. Enjoy perfectly roasted beets cut with ricotta salata, radicchio finished with almonds and balsamic vinegar, sweet-sour butternut squash with mint, and crisp threads of Brussels sprouts dressed with lemon and pecorino cheese. The highlight, however, is fried artichokes, a delicious, less-crunchy variation on the traditional, sunflower-shaped carciofi alla giudia. Arancini, or rice balls, are treats.
Durkin sends out a flawless fritto misto of shrimp, scallops and mushrooms; and flavorful little meatballs in a light, mellow rosemary-tomato sauce. He prepares a classic spaghetti alla carbonara, smoky, peppery and egg-free; zesty bucatini all'Amatriciana; and sensational gnocchi, in pink sauce spiced with crumbled sausage.
Butternut-squash ravioli in brown butter: a delight. Try the tender pan-roasted pork chop with raisin polenta and peppercorn sauce; juicy roasted chicken; and a genuine saltimbocca.
Conclude with an affogato, espresso over ice cream; tiramisu; and, if available, bombolini - the ultimate doughnut holes.
The organic salmon, boosted by lentils and red-wine sauce, is an also-ran in this company. So are the grilled portobello-mushroom and Caesar salads. Good panna cotta and angel food cake.
THE BOTTOM LINE
La dolce vita
Trattoria Diane is located at 21 Bryant Ave., Roslyn, 516-621-2591