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Weekend picks: Casual Italian

Diners ready to dig in at Mamma Lombardi's.

Diners ready to dig in at Mamma Lombardi's. Photo Credit: Newsday photo / Robert Mecea

The casual, dependable Italian eatery is Long Island's year-round, go-to restaurant. Sometimes, there's pizza; sometimes, panini; almost always, pasta. How can you go wrong? Here are three establishments where you'll be energized and fueled for the upcoming holidays. And the pace at each one is your call.

Ristorante Venere in Westbury has been a local landmark since 1979. Very friendly, accommodating service and consistently satisfying food define the place, along with an image of Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus." Enjoy the pizzettes, traditional pizzas, fried calamari, pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage, St. Peter's fish oreganata, assorted antipasti, salads, hero sandwiches, a full range of Parmigianas. You'll be back.

Ristorante Venere is at 841 Carman Ave., Westbury; 516-333-2332.

La Bottega has many branches in Nasau and Suffolk. The Huntington spot is a cozy, downtown destination. On the menu: 60-plus panini -- vegetarian, chicken, beef, pork, seafood, cured-meat varieties. "Gela" brings together roasted pork, provolone, red peppers and arugula; "Milano," bresaola, fresh mozzarella and arugula; "Foggia," fried eggplant, smoked mozzarella, olive paste, sundried tomato. Good soups, salads.

La Bottega in Huntington is at 9 Wall St.; 631-271-3540.

Mamma Lombardi's in Holbrook includes the main restaurant and, adjoining it, a fine pizzeria and informal place for eating in and taking out. Solid choices include Sicilian and Neapolitan pies, a deep-dish production, hero sandwiches, panini, rice balls, eggplant rollatine, calzones, the works. And you also can order dishes from the restaurant's full-flavored main menu at the pizzeria.

Mamma Lombardi's, 400 Furrows Rd., Holbrook; 631-737-0774.

Dining at Mamma Lombardi's.

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