Maybe I’m too competitive but I often consider dining a sport where each course constitutes a round with a winner and a loser. At a recent meal at Vespa, I placed in the middle
Vespa Cibobuono, which has stood at the corner of Northern Boulevard and Great Neck Road since 1992, closed for a while last year for renovations and reopened in October 2012. Not much has changed; it’s still a friendly neighborhood spot that doesn’t stray too far from the Long Island Italian pack — right down to the desultory vegetable garnish adding color (and not much else) to each main dish. (The wine list, however, is several cuts above average; credit the owner, a native of the Piedmont, arguably Italy’s greatest winemaking region.)
My friend Joe won the first course. His funghi trifolati was a savory mélange of sauteed mushrooms. Two pureed soups, one of carrot, one of fennel and zucchini were fine. My salad came in last: an enormous quantity of blandly dressed arugula with some sliced mushrooms and shards of Parmesan.
Joe took the main course too, with excellent grilled galletto, Cornish hen, which the menu described as semi free range. (A fascinating image, but I think they meant semi-boned, free range.) I did pretty well with veal scaloppine topped with chopped radicchio and peas — a new one on me, and very tasty. Venetian-style liver and onions wasn’t going to make any converts, but pleased my liver-and-onion-loving companion. Joe’s wife was the loser here: she had a huge helping of overcooked orecchiette with thin slices of sausage, the kind of dish that makes you feel guilty that you didn’t stay at home and cook it yourself.
Vespa Cibobuono is at 96 Northern Blvd., Great Neck, 516-829-0005.