Carle Place (516) 741-4800
To answer the question as to why Long Islanders absolutely love Italian restaurants, look no further than Passione, a relatively-recent arrival in Carle Place. It’s not a great, innovative, cutting-edge restaurant, nor does it try to be. Rather, it’s a warm, generous, traditional place that virtually screams Italy–there’s obvious Italian pride on tap. The menu features not fancy, finessed creations, but full-flavored food, familiar Italian comfort dishes, including no less than twenty pastas, nine pasta classics (individual or family style) and four pasta al forno picks. Add five risottos, seven Parmigianas, one steak, five fish and 15 other non-pasta entrées and you have the full picture of what Passione offers.
The restaurant’s warmth and generosity are also typical of the genre. Squares of complimentary pizza come with the appetizers. Biscotti (unfortunately brick hard) arrive with the check. Both starters and entrées are served in large bowls and long plates. After eating most of four appetizers and two of the four pizza squares at a recent meal, a quartet of hearty foodies hardly put a dent in the huge entrée portions. More than half of them ended up in take-home bags that provided a second night’s dinner. And the tab here hardly comes close to breaking the bank. Only nine dishes top the $20 mark, while Italian golden oldies like spaghetti and meatballs, and lasagna go for $7.95 and $13.95.
Passione is a place of high, beamed ceilings, candles, bare tables, old-fashioned wrought iron lanterns and chandeliers, and jumbo wine bottles. There’s a central dining room, a pizzeria with its own entrance on one end and a bar at the other.
Appetizers and desserts fared a bit better than entrées. Three baby rice balls ($6.95) were packed with flavor. Those gutsy Mama Mia meatballs ($7.95) were enhanced by their ricotta, basil, sweet roasted peppers and crisp garlic bread, and a half Caesar salad for a modest $5.95 was finely shredded and propelled by its pungent dressing. Pan-seared Brussels sprouts ($6.95), a side dish ordered as an appetizer, deservedly attracted attention, even from non vegetable-lovers.
Four main courses batted .500. Chicken Marsala ($17.95) was bogged down by chewy meat and tasteless sauce, while whole-wheat rigatoni ($15.95), despite its delicate shaved Portobello mushroom strips and nicely grilled chicken, featured bland, soggy pasta. Much better was the rich baked ziti ($10.95), with its melted cheese, ground sirloin and admirable pomodoro sauce. Another old-fashioned delight was the Amatriciana that boasted house-made fusilli, caramelized onions and plenty of pancetta.
The out-of-the-ordinary strawberry salad with berries, spinach, hearts of palm, candied pecans and balsamic syrup sounded interesting, a bit more unusual than most of the menu, but it unfortunately turned out to be one of a few items on the menu that was unavailable because of missing ingredients.
Though it’s pretty difficult to leave Passione without feeling full and fat, try their gargantuan, worth-the-calories chocolate mousse cake ($7.95). It is moist and gooey, with a robust flavor that is a chocolate lover’s fantasy. An ice cream cone sampler ($6.95) of four small cones, each loaded with a different flavor, is another worthwhile idea.
photos by stephen lang