(1 STAR)

CUISINE: Italian.

ASSESSMENT: Join the regulars.

OPEN: Seven days for lunch and dinner.

PRICE RANGE: Dinner entrees, $10.95 to $18.95; pastas, $9.95 to $13.95;

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appetizers, $4.95 to $10.95. Lunch entrees, $8.95 to $9.95; sandwiches, $5.95

to $7.25.

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards.

NOTABLE DISHES: Hot antipasti, crab cakes, linguine puttanesca, spaghetti Frank

Sinatra, veal capricciosa.

ACCESS: One level.

DIRECTIONS: North side, less than 1/4 mile east of the Cross Island Parkway.

Four stars mean outstanding; three, excellent; two, very good; one, good; none,

fair or poor.

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Every neighborhood needs Trattoria Lucia.

Good food, fair prices, and no pretense define this local winner on the

Queens-Nassau border. The eatery proclaims "Italian cuisine prepared from the

heart." You won't argue, considering how many competitors finish theirs with an

extra helping of agita.

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This warm place has an earth-tone, sponge-paint look, plenty of tilework,

and enough stylized images to suggest the rooftops of a little town in the

Italy of your imagination.

Reality allows you to park in an adjoining bank lot, which can be very

helpful on a busy summer night. Trattoria Lucia fills up.

You will, too, with a husky hot antipasto containing big flavors and no

surprises. The eggplant rollatine stands out, and the baked clams and lemony

shrimp are tender.

The kitchen takes a retro turn with coconut shrimp, the staple of too many

cocktail hours. Here, they're very good: crisp, plump, sweet, ready for a

honey-mustard dipping sauce. The house's crab cakes, generous with shellfish,

also are recommended.

Mozzarella in carrozza, the Neapolitan breaded-and-fried cheese sandwich,

easily could feed two. This gilded production is much better than most,

surrounding a bowl of respectable marinara sauce.

The establishment really gets going with pastas.

While the background sound revels in a range between "Return to Sorrento"

and "Volare," you can dive into spaghetti alla Frank Sinatra. It's an assertive

dish not to be had in the wee small hours: shrimp, clams, green olives, capers

and tomatoes - more like "My Way."

Linguine alla puttanesca continues the extroverted theme with gusto,

tossing the strands with tomatoes, capers, black olives and anchovies.

Whole-wheat linguine Lucia translates into a more modest union of shrimp,

arugula and fresh tomatoes.

Although its soul is south of Rome, Trattoria Lucia sends out a delectable

spaghetti alla carbonara, heady with bacon and Parmesan cheese; and tasty,

pink-sauced capellini primavera.

Naturally, you can have the trifecta of Parmigianas: shrimp, chicken, veal.

But try the veal capricciosa, a satisfying version of veal Milanese, fried and

capped with a salad of chopped tomatoes, onion and arugula. The hot-cool

contrast suits summer nights.

A rustic entree of blistered, juicy sausages with broccoli rabe amounts to

your own private Feast of Jericho-Jamaica. But pork chops with vinegar peppers

are overdone, as is swordfish Lucia, with olives, asparagus and artichoke

hearts. You're better off with basic grilled salmon, accented with garlic,

lemon and white wine.

Desserts are afterthoughts. Routine tartufo and chocolate mousse cake,

standard-issue sorbets in hollowed-out fruits, and a very frosty berry tart are


Of course, every neighborhood could use a Ben & Jerry's, too.