Convenience counts at the new Umberto's Pizzeria in Plainview, an offshoot the original in New Hyde Park that also has branches in Wantagh, Garden City and Bellmore. Situated in the same shopping center as Fairway, the Italian eatery makes for a likely stop for a slice or a meal en route to the produce aisle.
The decor, like the menu, is all about functionality. Nothing wrong with that. Still, I found myself waiting to be wowed by something -- even a slice of grandma or Sicilian, both of which turned out to be good, not great. And this is the same pizza the New York Giants had ordered and had delivered from the original New Hyde Park location to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis earlier this year.
More impressive was the little stuffed pizza roll called a strombolini. Both the meat version, filled with pepperoni and mozzarella, and the green vegetable-stuffed one proved meltingly delicious. A ground-meat-stuffed rice ball, plucked from the showcase upfront and reheated, might have reached its potential had it been served with sauce on the side.
In August, the height of tomato season, an appetizer of mozzarella, roasted peppers and tomatoes harbored pale pinkish slices. Another missed opportunity: an arugula salad with goat cheese, leathery bits of sun-dried tomato and bitter charred walnuts.
Servers, while friendly, can confuse things. One night, I waited ages for a personal pan pizzetta topped with fresh mozzarella and marinara sauce. Ultimately, I ended up with a whole wheat-crusted pie. And it was good -- just not what I ordered.
Veal piccata, nicely lemony, if a trifle sweet, was plated with potatoes: a very beige composition. Lots more vibrant in both flavor and color was shrimp fra diavolo with clams, with a marinara-sauced pasta served on the side rather than underneath. Tender broccoli rabe with grilled house-made sausage was another hit, even though it was requested over pasta but came alongside. Did somebody forget to season the meatballs atop my spaghetti? Meat lasagna, rife with meatballs and sliced sausage, was way oversauced.
A highlight was a lunch panino with perfectly grilled shrimp and arugula on a ciabatta roll. It may not have been a textbook panino, since it wasn't grill-pressed, but the sandwich was both perky and satisfying -- evidence of what this kitchen is capable of producing.