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Valentine's Day: Small bites = Amore

Italian posters line the walls at Pentimento, which

Italian posters line the walls at Pentimento, which serves contemporary and traditional Italian entrees in Stony Brook. (Jan. 29, 2011) Credit: John Griffin

After the hearts and flowers comes another appetite. And restaurants old and new are ready to satisfy it.

Of all the trendlets to show up in the last year or so, the small-plates approach to Italian cooking has to be the tastiest. The Venetians have had it right for years, with their cicchetti, or little snacks, eaten in late morning, mid-afternoon, whenever you want, usually accompanied by an ombra, or a glass of wine.

You're unlikely to find tangy sardines en saor or mellow baccala mantecato. But there are more than enough local treats.

If you're anywhere near Amityville, stop into Vero and pick at random from the small plates, from cured meats and exceptional cheeses to crunchy rice fritters, polenta fries, and seafood salad. At Pentimento in Stony Brook, the choices may include warm piquillo peppers with goat cheese, fried chickpea fritters, marinated giant beans with olives, or pickled vegetables. And Trattoria Diane in Roslyn stands out with openers that include sweet-and-sour butternut squash, crisp threads of Brussels sprouts with lemon and pecorino cheese, fried artichokes and a fritto misto of shrimp and scallops.

It's all very light, very good, and will keep you in the right mood.

Vero, 192 Broadway, Amityville; 631-608-4340.

Pentimento,  93 Main St., Stony Brook; 631-689-7755.

Trattoria Diane, 21 Bryant Ave., Roslyn; 516-621-2591.

At Pentimento.