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Vintage Bar & Grill review

Among the expertly grilled steaks and chops is

Among the expertly grilled steaks and chops is a rosy pink veal chop. (Dec. 8, 2012) Credit: Johnny Simon

For 35 years, Capriccio stood at the crest of this deserted hill, an impregnable fortress of fine dining. Its successors were not so lucky: four of them opened and closed from 2005 to 2012.

Vintage Bar & Grill looks like a keeper.

Chef-owner Michael Cacaro knows the local dining landscape. In 1979, his family opened Manero's steakhouse in Syosset. (Under his direction it morphed into Fulton & Prime in 2006; it closed earlier this year). Since 2001, Cacaro and his wife, Victoria, have operated Vintage Prime Steak House in St. James. His Jericho venture plays down the steak and fills out the menu with crowd-pleasing dishes cherry-picked from Italian, New American and Asian-fusion menus.

The decor is winning too, a mashup of crystal chandeliers, pony-skin upholstery and faux-finish wall panels. It's flashy with a wink. On a recent Friday night, tables full of well-heeled couples were happily digging into one another's plates and signaling the waiters for more bottles of wine.

Starters are strong, and uniformly generous. "Angry spaghetti" was dressed with spicy tomato sauce and big, tasty lumps of crab. Even better were the fresh ricotta tortelloni, three fist-sized dumplings garnished with crumbled sausage and broccoli rabe. Also recommended: sweet-sour duck "tacos" and lemon-herb marinated lamb rib chops served with tzatziki. A salad of beets, arugula and goat cheese was pleasant, but bland.

All the steaks and chops sampled were expertly grilled -- a rosy pink veal chop, fat lamb loin chops (here and elsewhere rechristened, maddeningly, lamb porterhouse chops) and an immense bone-in cowboy rib steak. On an early visit, the meats had been timidly seasoned, but a few weeks later, a surer, gutsier hand had prevailed.

Another hit: a dainty dish of pan-seared scallops atop a cauliflower puree punctuated with asparagus and shiitake mushrooms. It was the lobster fried rice accompaniment that made the soy-laquered salmon sound so appealing; the rice turned out to be delicious but the salmon overcooked.

Sides were a mixed bag: Fat spears of asparagus gratinéed with Parmesan were an unqualified success; Parmesan-truffle French fries were strangely blah; lobster mac and cheese evinced no discernible cheese taste.

With the exception of an appealing chocolate-peanut butter tart, desserts were a joyless affair: a wan apple tart, a listless flourless chocolate cake, a berry tart whose geometrically precise pastry shell was masonry-hard.

Then again, it would have been hard for any dessert to measure up to that tortelloni.

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