Ristorante Cinque Terre

Ristorante Cinque Terre
872 East Jericho Tpke, Huntington Station
631-923-1255

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The late, lamented Panama Hattie’s held forth at this location in Huntington Station for 18 years. Amicale replaced it but remained open only for a cup of coffee. But in June, Cinque Terre, a worthy successor to the celebrated Panama Hattie’s, emerged. It’s a sprawling, sedate, 258-seat restaurant—a luxurious carpeted palace of elaborate crystal chandeliers (from Amicale’s run), with a single yellow rose in a red vase on each table, two fireplaces and a Sistine Chapel-like ceiling section.

Its new owners, Anthony and Pam Page, who also operate Ristorante Verona in Farmingdale, have added some of their own touches. What was one of the dining rooms is now a lounge; new chandeliers have been installed in that lounge and striking wall arrangements have been mounted in the main dining room by Mrs. Page, who is responsible for most of the restaurant’s decoration.

Mr. Page, who developed a Manhattan state of mind running Firenze on 2nd Ave for 14 years, is both Cinque Terre’s executive chef and a prominent presence in the dining room. He’s assisted in the kitchen by Robert Scarmato, who saw previous service at the Hempstead Country Club, and Mr. Page’s uncle, Dominick Simone, who ran Simone’s Bakery in Flushing for 50 years and is now the pastry chef.

The best of the four starters we sampled was the crunchy and tender fritto misto, an entrée-size pile of greaseless fried calamari, shrimp and chunks of sepia and red snapper with a touch of pesto vinaigrette ($14). Three other appetizers run a close second: A grilled vegetable tower offers a vibrant blend of zucchini, eggplant, yellow squash and heirloom tomatoes topped by a thin slice of sharp provolone and an earthy pomodoro sauce ($10); a special of three zucchini blossoms stuffed with ricotta and blanketed with a savory tomato sauce ($14); and a sizable, well-presented portion of insalata Cinque Terre of baby arugula, endive, radicchio, caramelized apples and sundried cranberries sparked by a fig dressing and shaved Parmigiano Reggano cheese ($11).

Two satisfactory seafood selections were just a tad off target. The lobster ravioli ($24) suffered from a malady common to this dish: The lobster meat stuffing didn’t generate an assertive enough flavor to rise above the could-be-anything category, while the flavor of the fresh, pan-seared salmon was at times overwhelmed by its tomato and lemon caper sauce. But the oven-roasted, Fred Flintstone-size double thick pork chop is Cinque Terre at its best, sporting old-fashioned taste enhanced by its oven-roasted Brussels sprouts, cipollini onions and strips of crispy pancetta ($30). There’s also an exemplary veal scaloppini with wild mushrooms in a Marsala demi-glace that feels as if it’s moored in the Old Country ($28).

A less-than-intensely flavored chocolate mousse cake ($8) and a substantial New York-style cheesecake ($8) escorted by a cherry-studded sauce brought the satisfying meal to a close.

photo by lynn spinnato

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richard jay scholem

Richard Jay Scholem practically invented the Long Island restaurant culture through 800+ reviews of the region's eateries both on radio and in print over the last 30 years. He is a former New York Times Long Island Section restaurant reviewer, has contributed to the Great Restaurants of...magazines and Bon Vivant, authored a book, aired reviews on WGSM and WCTO radio stations, served on the board of countless community and food and beverage organizations, and received many accolades for his journalism in both print and broadcast media. He is currently available for restaurant consultation. Reach him at (631) 271-3227.