324 West Sunrise Hwy, Rockville Centre
(516) 208-7789 | viaggiotapas.com
Viaggio, or “journey” in Spanish, is an appropriate name for a splendid new tapas restaurant that opened last December in Rockville Centre. Its founding partners, all from very different backgrounds, journeyed from Ecuador, Mexico, Chicago, Brooklyn and Long Island itself. They met, clicked, and worked together by hiring a Barcelona-born chef and creating an upbeat, feel-good storefront spot along Sunrise Highway. All of these dedicated partners are on the scene nightly and their genuinely friendly smiles and accommodating attitude make Viaggio one of the warmest, most welcoming restaurants on Long Island. It’s obvious they’re putting their hearts and souls into this open kitchen venture decorated with drop lighting and cookware hanging on a paneled wall.
Viaggio’s menu is dominated by 22 tapas as it should be, the appetizers are ubiquitous in Spanish bars and restaurants. (There are also two soups, two salads and three sides.) The small plates can form a whole meal, ranging from simple items like Brussels sprouts ($7) and salted shishito peppers ($7) to more elaborate preparations like house-made sausage with white beans, caramelized onions and Penedès wine ($14), or braised oxtail in Rioja wine with oven-roasted Dublin Bay prawns ($14).
Viaggio doesn’t try to do everything, but what it does it does well. It often goes to the original source for its ingredients and executive chef Alex Bujoreanu incorporates them into authentic, savory tapas native to various Spanish regions. Although every one of his dishes isn’t a home run, there are many more hits than misses. Hospitality is among them: when we told our waiter that the cuttlefish calamari tapas were rubbery and tasteless, he took the $12 dish off our bill without being asked.
One of the biggest hits of the night was the first tapas we tried: A row of eight, inch-high cylinders of superior, intensely-flavored chorizo perched on a bed of soothing lemon aioli ($12). Diners who want a little kick in their food will enjoy the shrimp heads (suck the shrimp out of their shells) touched with a spicy sauce and popcorn chorizo ($8). Milder and even more desirable are the delicate, tender croquettes in a crunchy, greaseless crust. The wild mushroom version comes with truffle aioli ($8) and the lobster croquette is enhanced by tangy lemon aioli ($10). Viaggio’s mussels ($9) passed muster but weren’t much different from mussels elsewhere. Razor clams in garlic, parsley and olive oil ($12) also lacked the punch that defined the other tapas.
Desserts ($8) went three for three. Roseanna, a founding partner, contributes a velvety, unbelievably light cheesecake. Two towering ice cream sandwiches that look like hamburgers are actually brioche filled with gelato and chunks of milk chocolate.