(516) 764-1900, Rockville Centre
Looking for Sicilian food on Long Island? You might owe me a thank you. That’s because after going to Antonette’s Classico in Rockville Centre in search of Sicilian dishes featuring sardines, raisins, fruits, pine nuts and tripe and finding none of them on the menu, among the specials or mentioned by our waiter, I called Nick Cobi, the restaurant’s genial manager to find out why. He indicated that patrons only need to ask in order to receive the Sicilian specialties while acknowledging that diners, especially newcomers might not know to make such a request. As a result of our conversation, he indicated he would expose the Sicilian offerings to future diners without prompting. That’s good news if Antonette’s Sicilian possibilities are in the same league as their more familiar mainland-Italian fare.
Antonette’s Classico (where Da Ugo was for 18 years), with its crystal chandeliers, long luxuriant copper-colored drapes, fresh flowers, white tablecloths, tuxedoed waiter and fine China, generates an unapologetic old-world image. It also boasts a spirit of generosity. Diners are greeted with a plate of warm, outstanding bruschetta and exceptionally tasty caponata to spread on noteworthy crisp bread. Upon departing, complimentary after-dinner drinks are often proffered.
If the Sicilian choices are up to the level of the more frequently seen dishes that dot Antonette’s menu, many diners will be understandably pleased. Most of the food here is fairly priced and amply portioned. The bountiful Caesar salad is indeed a classic example. Its vibrant, fresh ingredients stamp it as a sumptuous success ($10). So too are the impeccable PEI mussels in a rich white wine sauce ($11). A big bowl of pasta fagioli, dense with stubby pasta and cannellini beans needed some shakes of salt to bring it to life ($7), while the vongolette in brodo marechiarra (clams in an addictive, natural broth with a hint of tomato), delivered a bright, earthy flavor, but the “small imported clams” the menu promised turned out to be jumbo-sized fellows ($11).
Fillet of sole meunière often considered a cliché dish was the single best entrée sampled. It’s a perfectly turned-out amalgam of butter, white wine, lemon, spices and soft, pliant fish ($25). A peppy rendition of thinly spiced New England conch “fra diavolo” displayed a subtle spiciness from its marinara sauce ($25). The penne alla Antonette, heavy with peas, mushroom and asparagus, but light on pancetta arrived in a bland tomato cream sauce, yielding little taste ($20).
Two house-made and one brought-in dessert had no such problems. An airy Napoleon was luscious. The soft creamy tiramisu is one of the Island’s best and the chocolate mousse pie holds its own with the house selections (all $7).
Photos by Stephen Lang