"Vero" means true, in the dictionary - and here on the table.
Restaurants like to define themselves as authentic. For almost all, it's a marketing exercise. But at Vero, chef Massimo Fedozzi, who earned three stars at the defunct Palio in Jericho, has turned Amityville into a genuine dining destination, Italian-style.
Vero is owned by Michael Esposito of Vittorio's, the very good Italian restaurant a few doors down. But this new venture is an entirely different animal. Mostly serving small plates, Vero delivers a vivid, generous taste of the Italian kitchen, full of flavor and free of pretense. The mood is convivial, the dining-room decor sleek but brightened with cream upholstery and orange accents. Another playful stroke: Each table in the dining room accommodates one plush armchair. The busy bar features large-enough-for-six booths and a roster of inventive cocktails, both traditional (e.g. Negroni, Sazerac) and "evoluzione" (the house special, Vero, features tequila, Aperol, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, blueberries and thyme). Expect noise on weekends. The buzz has started. This is a restaurant to celebrate.
Nibble on the exceptional cured meats and cheeses, some olives, maybe bruschette or a focaccia. Then, savor Vero's "piattini," small plates to be shared. Crunchy Arborio rice fritters; a deeply oceanic seafood risotto; roasted beet salad and seafood salad; spiedini Romani, or fried cheese and bread in anchovy sauce, and polenta fries with tomato pesto - all excellent. Don't resist the meatball sliders. Not exactly vero, but very good. Two people could make a fine meal from five or six of these plates.
Pastas, at $12 for a small portion, are mandatory. Go with a group and sample three or more. Favorites: fragile pansoti, or big tortellini, filled with chard and cheese, finished with walnut sauce; red-snapper raviolini, with shellfish and fennel broth; rich, smoky bucatini all'Amatriciana; gnocchi in a mushroom sauce; any pasta Bolognese. Fedozzi prepares a terrific filet of branzino sauced with white wine, lemon and Gaeta olives. Share the ample serving of polenta, with a savory ragu of the day, perhaps pork or sausage. Desserts are led by a toasty panino of Nutella, addictive enough to resurrect Elvis; bombolini, or doughnuts filled with cider-laced pastry cream; and a pristine, light pear strudel. Or return to the cheeses, with Gorgonzola dolce and creamy Crescenza, paired with plum jam.
Vero's wine list is full of good values, many in the $30 range.
Skippable "grilled" Caesar salad, cured tuna, tuna with white beans, dry chocolate cake.
THE BOTTOM LINE
FOR MORE CASUAL ITALIAN-AMERICAN
FOOD 1 1/2 stars
366 N. Broadway, Jericho
Husky fare at good prices defines Fanatico, an offshoot of the popular Emilio's in Commack. It's a reliable spot for Italian- American favorites with some tweaks. You'll find very good pizzas, especially the Grandpa pie and the all-cheese white pizza. Also: eggplant rollatine, calamari with cherry peppers and broccoli rabe, grilled chicken Parmigiana.
Victor's Pizza & Pasta House
FOOD 1 star
712 Walt Whitman Rd., Melville
Carbo-load like a professional at Victor's, a mainstay near the post office on Route 110. The small dining room will do for standbys such as pasta e fagioli, lentil soup, lasagna, manicotti and a casserole that combines lasagna, stuffed shells, ravioli, ziti and meatballs. The pizzas are ample and well made, especially the Sicilian, the white pie and the whole-wheat, thin-crust bar pizza.