76 South St, Oyster Bay
Ambiance: No Nonsense, Feel-Good Italian
Osteria Leana in Oyster Bay is a feel-good kind of restaurant. Walk in, look at its clean lines, its fresh and roomy aura and it’s obvious there is a thoughtful aesthetic at work here. There is a balanced, carefully selected menu (four appetizers, four pastas, four entrées, three sides and five desserts) and not a clunker in the bunch.
The modest Osteria Leana is a small, simple, straightforward modern Italian restaurant with a 10-seat communal table. It’s bright and cozy with an open kitchen, a tiny bar and real flowers scattered here and there. In short, this eating place that opened in the middle of the year is that rarest of operations—an honest restaurant. It doesn’t try to knock your culinary socks off, it’s just there to please and it succeeds. Rather than astound with cutting-edge concoctions, it offers mostly superior versions of olives, beers, pastas, fish, steak, chicken, veal, cheesecake, panna cotta and chocolate cake. Whenever possible, local organic ingredients are used. Precisely arranged plates are the norm as is an extraordinary accompanying serving staff.
After the satisfactory, predictable dishes like house-made green ravioli stuffed with ricotta ($18) and veal Milanese ($31), I’d suggest the fresh pan-seared cod served on a bed of minestrone ($26) and the best of the pastas, the big, long pici ($11 for a half portion and $18 for the full), or savory oxtail short ribs ragù ($11 for a half portion). If the thin, tasty gazpacho ($13) is still on the menu, order it.
Adventurous eaters should give the rarely encountered egg in purgatory a try. It’s the menu’s only unusual dish. Two soft poached duck egg patties are layered with sofrito, salsa verde and fried polenta ($19). The recipe is one of owner Peter Van Der Mije’s grandmother’s and it’s a soothing dish if ever there was one.
Speaking of Van Der Mije, this is his first restaurant. But he’s paid his dues as a personal chef for five years and for 12 years as a chef in some of Manhattan’s hot spots like Jean-Georges and Aquavit. And it shows through the little, thoughtful touches like miniature jellybeans at the conclusion of the meal.