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Viaggio Tapas review

Seafood paella, with baby shrimp, mussels and scallops

Seafood paella, with baby shrimp, mussels and scallops is a toasty specialty for two at Viaggio Tapas in Rockville Centre. Credit: Daniel Brennan

Restaurants annex the word "tapas" almost as fast and freely as they appropriate "bistro" and "grill." Viaggio Tapas earns the right.

Tapas are the savory snacks of Spain, where grazing among the bars that offer them amounts to a very civilized national pastime. Dining on these mouthfuls -- at lunch, just after work or late at night -- is like taking part in an extended cocktail hour, but with better food, from Alicante to Zaragoza.

The tapa is neither appetizer nor small plate. Basically, a tapa is the tidbit you're downing with a drink. The word itself probably originated when the food was used as a lid to keep flies from sharing your beverage. Almost any cheese, meat, seafood or vegetable can be one. Making a full meal of tapas, as you doubtless will here, is irresistible. Besides, there's no competitor in the village.

Viaggio Tapas joins a small group that brings a taste of authentic tapas to the Long Island table.

It succeeds a series of wine bars at taverns at this address, and transforms the place. The look is mainly exposed brick and unvarnished wood, with some windowlike accents and stylized artwork. From the second level of the main dining area, you can see chef Alex Bujoreanu and company in the open kitchen, working rapidly.

Start at the top, with wafer-thin slices of great Ibérico ham, tender, nutty and glistening. Sample smoked Basque oysters. Be a Spaniard and order those shrimp heads in spicy sauce. Suck away. Dip your bread. Nibble on grilled Spanish octopus. You'll be on a second glass of dry sherry by now, perhaps pouring some sangria, or uncorking a good red or white.

Wine from Penedès contributes to the plate of house-made sausage, which comes with caramelized onions and white beans. Thimble-size turrets of chorizo sausage arrive crowned with snappy lemon aioli, which also complements delectable lobster croquettes. Mandatory: the most bravas of patatas. Enjoy zucchini flatbread, with caramelized onions, goat cheese and spiced honey.

In this company, skip the cured meats-and-cheeses board, "terrine" of pear confit and grilled cuttlefish with squid ink-tinted tempura vegetables, if only to allow room for the superior seafood paella, complete with socarrat, the coveted, caramelized rice so few local restaurants have.

Conclude with respectable chocolate mousse, cheesecake or ice cream sandwiches, two scoops on a sweet roll.

Viaggio, you're the tapas.

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