(631) 683-5595, Huntington
The name over the restaurant’s door at 15 New Street in the heart of Huntington Village has changed quite a few times over the years but the food served there hasn’t. With one exception it always was and still is Italian. The present occupant opened quietly late last year. La Notte is owned by Joseph Competiello who comes from a restaurant family in Queens where his father Michael is the chef/owner of a Forest Hills restaurant and where Joseph learned the business. Competiello hired Joseph Cacace, who grew up in Lynbrook and has seen previous service at a number of top-flight Manhattan restaurants, as his kitchen commander.
Their menu features eye-popping portions of no nonsense Italian golden oldies like clams oreganata, fried calamari, spaghetti marinara, spaghetti and clams, grilled sausage and chicken cacciatore. This is a darkish, white tablecloth restaurant that will be most appreciated by hungry diners who seek basic Italian food rather than fussy, cutting edge cuisine.
The result of all this is the proverbial mixed bag. It’s possible to have either a satisfying or less than satisfying meal here. A recent dinner for four underscores that point. The diner who ordered the generously portioned winter salad ($9), an imaginative mix of greens, roasted butternut squash, pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts covered with a pear Dijon vinaigrette that was followed by a fresh, flaky, fine pistachio crusted salmon ($25), was a happy camper. But there were no smiles across the table from the woman who ordered the hearty sounding Tuscan white bean and garlic soup ($8) that seemed to be the perfect hair-on-the-chest winter time brew, but was instead a thin, pallid pick. Her dusty dry, rather chewy grilled veal rolls were also dull and uninspiring.
Similarly a mountain of potato and zucchini chips ($10) baked with melted, crumbled gorgonzola was a crunchy, formidable starter sufficient for four diners. The absolutely gigantic serving of chicken cacciatori ($20) kept the winning streak going. Its tomato ragu, garlic, olives, red onions and capers provided an amalgam of spice and depth to the husky, agreeably blunt chunks of chicken.
Diner number four also went one for two by first devouring an oversized pile of crisp, crunchy, tender calamari fritti ($10) accompanied by a snappy marinara dip and a subtle lemon aioli, but then leaving a tangle of drab spaghettini and Manila clams ($20) with a disappointing lack of flavor. Its olive oil, garlic and white wine sauce was confined to the bottom of the bowl rather than adhering to the pasta.
That same split occurred when the desserts arrived. The midnight mousse ($8) with a puff of whipped cream was an ethereal, dark chocolate treat, but the less than moist red velvet cake ($8) was at best, ordinary.
Photos by Stephen Lang