348 E. Jericho Tpke, Mineola
It didn’t matter whether they were American like True American Kitchen or Italian like Lula Trattoria and Circa Enoteca, the previous occupants of 348 East Jericho Turnpike in Mineola all bit the dust. Some of them were better than others but none were obvious strikeouts. We shall soon see if the address is simply a doomed location, holding forth is yet a new tenant with an impressive pedigree, a positive reputation, a gifted young chef and some mighty good food.
Cassariano’s Italian Eatery is the offspring of a well-regarded restaurant of the same name in Venice, Florida. The chef is Giancarlo Di Maggio who went to culinary school in Italy, came to this country about ten years ago and worked in NYC and Long Island restaurants (La Parma, Franina and Porto Vivo).
DiMaggio’s menu features organic ingredients, hormone free meat, a minimum of butter and no fried dishes. Contemporary Italian authenticity is alive and well in most of his offerings and the ambiance is classy (candles on every table, a stone fireplace, etc.).
A send off of four superb starters had us heading in the right direction from the get-go. The Caesar salad harbored polenta croutons amid fresh romaine lettuce ($9) and is one of the best on the Island. A simple gamberetti scottali—a scramble of sautéed, tender baby shrimp, arugula and fresh tomatoes in a light tomato sauce ($13.60)—was more exciting than it sounded. Two somewhat standard dishes, Burrata with prosciutto ($15.50) and polenta valdostana ($11.50) were blessed with such top-tier ingredients (imported Burrata, prosciutto Di Parma, polenta, Fontina cheese) that they rose well above the ordinary.
A standard entrée version of respectable pan-seared halibut didn’t quite distinguish itself but three others did. The soft, delectable roasted duck breast with a creative fig risotto in a port reduction ($31.50) is enthusiastically recommended. Spaghetti con polpette di Agnello was a stout mound of spaghetti crowned by goat cheese and tomatoes with two vibrantly seasoned, egg-size lamb meatballs buried within ($21.50). The king-sized portion of pappardelle in salsa di funghi e salsiccia ($21.50) looked like a pretty leaf pressing of long pasta strips mixed with thin slices of sausage joined with mushroom and ricotta salata.
Worth noting is the prices on the wine list—the least expensive being a chianti for $33. More reasonably priced $8.50 desserts included an elegant tiramisu in a stemmed glass, a tasty, crisp surfaced crème brûlée and a terrific chocolate mousse stuffed in a hard chocolate shell.