(631) 676-3283, Nesconset
Tate’s seems ordinary but is in fact often extraordinary. Located on the corner of a standard little strip shopping center next to a nail salon it looks like a zillion other unremarkable, storefront spots. The sign over the window unsurprisingly proclaims “lunch, dinner, brunch, catering.”
The inside is standard stuff too, it’s neat and cozy but hardly distinctive; tables are covered with bistro paper over white cloths. Yet this unpretentious, three-year-old, what-you-see-is-what-you-get family-centered restaurant is special. Chef Jack Mutell makes all his pastas, bread and desserts in-house. His sister Carolyn owns Tate’s, named for the chef’s 14 year old daughter Tatum. Family pictures of weddings and anniversaries dot the walls. This is a place of pride and warmth. Diners almost feel as though they have been invited into someone’s home.
Although à la carte selections are available, most of those diners, including us, select the three-course price fixe appetizer, entrée and dessert meal ($32 weekdays, $35 weekends). There’s also a five-course chef’s tasting for $50. Twenty-one wines are priced at $24 a bottle; there is a $10 per bottle corking fee for those who bring their own wine.
If you go to Tate’s bring a hearty appetite but leave your plastic at home—it’s strictly a cash only operation. What follows is worth every penny. Although some dishes are better than others, there are no foul balls. Rugged, crusty bread accompanied by a warm garlic bulb and superior virgin olive oil makes an excellent opening salvo. After devouring not one but two baskets of the bread, we targeted four appetizers: A vibrant Italian salad featuring strips of salami and provolone atop fresh greens in an oregano vinaigrette; an exemplary Caesar salad with a delicious meld of ingredients and two loosely packed, expertly-seasoned selections—a couple of meatballs dusted with Pecorino upon greens and crab cakes minus much filler escorted by tangy, spicy remoulade.
Entrées displayed at least as much imagination and innovation as the first courses (a rarity on Long Island where appetizers are usually more interesting). I can’t remember ever encountering either a pork osso buco with a harmonizing fig and fennel agrodolce sauce or beef brasato, braised fork-tender meat topped with strips of horseradish cream.
Not as unusual but nevertheless recommended are the housemade ziti pork ragÙ arugula with prominent caramelized onion and the flaky Venetian-style salmon with its orange, raisin and pistachio plate mates. The ziti qualifies as Italian comfort food and the salmon contained no strong fish flavor. Unfortunately all entrées are accompanied by the same two add-ons, routine broccoli rabe and noteworthy mashed potatoes.
Among the desserts were an almond pound cake without much almond taste, a passable ricotta cake, a rich peanut butter mousse and a moist, deeply flavored chocolate layer cake.
Photo by Tom Fitzgerald and Pam Deutchman / thefphoto.com