Sophia Italian Bistro

71 Merrick Rd, Amityville, (631) 598-1150

restaurantreviews_stars3There should be more Long Island restaurants like Sophia Italian Bistro.

It’s generous, calm, unpretentious and honest, with a gifted chef in the kitchen and a concerned host in the dining room. Enrique Bermeo, who deservedly attracted many fans at Luigi Q in Hicksville, is the chef while Riccardo “Richie” Sanseverino presides in the dining room. Although both have been on the local restaurant scene for some years, this is the partner’s first ownership venture.

The generosity of their new restaurant is evident from the get-go. Instant service of cheese, salami and crusty bread found our table. There’s a calm atmosphere created by carpeted floors, sound-proofed ceilings and the absence of intrusive recorded music or blaring televisions. It encourages relaxation and civilized conversation. Mr. Sanseverino is also a warm presence, roaming the dining room with a knowing eye along with his kind wait staff.

Sophia’s unpretentious menu doesn’t try to knock diner’s socks off or offer cutting-edge dishes for shock value. Rather, it aims to seduce patrons with familiar preparations like baked clams oreganata, penne vodka, veal saltimbocca and chicken scarpariello. The quality and size of portions justify the reasonable prices that often are in the teens and low twenties.

Welcome little touches don’t bowl anybody over, nevertheless attest to the effort and concern that illustrates Sophia. For instance, the vegetable salad is a bountiful chopped bowl of veggies enhanced by some unexpected but welcome mango ($10). Warm grilled pulpo (octopus) is cut into bite-sized pieces, marinated in garlic and lightly touched with lemon and parsley ($14), all of which lets its flavor come through loud and clear.

Two predictable starters—eggplant rico, with ricotta and mozzarella with a gentle filetto sauce ($10); and soft burrata boasting deeply ripe tomatoes and roasted peppers ($12)—both hold their own.

A surprisingly substantial shell steak with vegetable and potatoes ($28) is a best buy recommendation. Half of an oven-roasted Long Island duck was slightly chewy but greatly enhanced by its orange demi glace ($26). A generous helping of grilled salmon in Dijon mustard sauce ($24) was slightly dry. But the veal saltimbocca ($23) was everything it should be.

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.