Ragazzi Italian Kitchen & Bar
Nesconset, (631) 265-8200
There’s always room for one more Italian restaurant on Long Island. That is proven once again by Ragazzi Italian Kitchen & Bar in Nesconset, which opened in December 2010. It’s a large, modern, standalone structure near the Smith Haven Mall. Inside, the handsome earth-toned interior features banquet seating, hanging exposed light bulbs, industrial ceiling, colorful arched stained glass panes over a portion of the dining room and a noteworthy bar—an eye-catching concrete affair with smashed beer bottles imbedded into it.
Ragazzi’s food is familiar and dependable rather than exciting and innovative. Diners who crave the classics will find them here at gentle prices. Patrons who keep an eagle eye out for the basics like lasagna, spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, ravioli and linguini dishes will recognize Ragazzi as their kind of place, as will those seeking Italian golden oldies like chicken scarpiello, veal Milanese, zuppa di mare and veal scaloppini. Desserts are super-sized and the diverse breadbasket with its pizza knots, focaccia and warm crusty bread is one of the most interesting and best on the Island.
The fried zucchini ($7) is an excellent first step here, especially for diners who prefer the blunt, rustic ones (and lots of them) to the thin wispy version. They’re accompanied by a tomato dip and wasabi aioli with an addictive horseradish taste. Another hearty success is the layered Napoleone di Melanzane ($9) with lightly breaded eggplant, sautéed spinach and Parmesan cheese—all crowned with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella. Not quite as impressive was a calamari-dominated seafood salad ($13) and a standard Caesar ($9). A number of these starters are large enough to tempt some diners to cancel the remaining courses. That would be a mistake, especially in the case of the fish, a rarely encountered, fresh, flaky salmon livornese ($22) and the tilapia vona special, a marriage of artichoke and fish that worked very well. Scaloppini funghetti ($19), a tender slice of veal, yielded an abundance of portobello, shiitake and wild mushrooms as well as white wine sauce, but needed seasoning to maximize its flavor. Chicken scarpiello ($18) had no such problem, and while leaving the chicken on the bone (as we did) produces more taste than when it’s cut away, there was a bit too much bone and too little meat in the dish we received.
The colossal sweets we sampled included a rich, creamy vanilla custard Napoleon ($7) with gobs of house-made whipped cream and an airy puff pastry, a too-large-to-finish brownie sundae ($7.50) with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, warm chocolate fudge, whipped cream and walnuts, and a towering Oreo ice cream cake ($6), a combination of vanilla and Oreo.
Service, though well intentioned, was a bit too anxious to please, to the point of being intrusive. We must have been asked eight or ten times by four or five people if everything was OK and if the food was good. It was. We just needed more time to eat it.