Italian food is something you never have to be in the mood for. Once the rich smell infiltrates the room, stomachs growl, mouths water and memories of family-style Sunday dinners come flooding back. Whether it’s pizza, pasta, meat or fish, Long Island Italian restaurants lead the charge in terms of flavor. Eight eateries will make your taste buds sing, “That’s Amore.”
Piccola Bussola Ristorante, Huntington/Mineola/Glen Cove
The first question out of an Italian mother’s mouth is, “Are you sure you have enough to eat?” Piccola Bussola puts those concerns on the back burner and prepares every dish family-style, serving two or more in the process. The veal sorrentino is one for the books. The dish combines juicy pieces of veal with eggplant, prosciutto and melted mozzarella that, when compiled together, has a knack for leaving guests full and wanting more. The chicken francese features a spread of fork-tender cutlets marinated in a delicate white wine, lemon and butter sauce. But definitely don’t leave without trying the limoncello cake (a Glen Cove & Mineola specialty), made with mascarpone cheese, lime zest and topped with crushed white chocolate. You’ll be thankful you said yes to dessert. Go.
Buona Sera, Smithtown
Known for generous portions and tasteful presentations, Buona Sera delivers authentic Italian cuisine in healthy fashion. Diners can make themselves at home in a cozy leather booth and start with the Buffalo fried calamari, doused in a sweet-spicy sauce. As far as entrees go, guests can’t go wrong with the grilled chicken artichoke panini coated in basil pesto and sundried tomato on warm ciabatta bread. The roasted turkey and avocado salad has also attracted quite the following, but tastes even better with a slice of brick-oven (also served gluten-free!) pizza on the side. Go.
Jonathan’s Ristorante, Huntington
What’s an Italian dinner without wine? Jonathan’s is an 11-time winner of Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence.” Try the La Spinet Rosé, a complex rosé with tart cherry flavors or the Turley Juvenile Zinfandel, a smooth, thicker wine, paired with a hearty entrée like the Tagliatelle (pasta) served with oyster mushroom, sweet garlic, baby arugula and bay scallops. Go.
Uncle Bacala’s, Mineola
Dressed in white subway tiles and traditional red and white-checkered tablecloths, Uncle Bacala’s aims to bring a slice of Italy to the North Shore. Signature dishes include Chilean sea bass with caramelized peaches and escarole over saffron rice, spaghetti frutti di mare with tomato, shrimp, scallops, calamari, clams and mussels and salmone in agro atop roasted eggplant. But the real crowd-pleaser is the complimentary cotton candy served at the end of every meal. Go.
Mamma Lombardi’s, Holbrook
Everyone who’s anyone has heard of Lombardi’s fine dining, spanning from North Shore to South Shore. And, as anyone who has ever experienced a true Italian dinner knows, the ingredients for a delicious meal include generations of family members. Renowned for their Neapolitan cuisine, Mamma’s homemade recipes have been used for over four decades to provide Long Islanders with a taste of local Italy. Go.
Umberto’s, New Hyde Park/Wantagh
The original Umberto’s in New Hyde Park has flourished from the cozy pizzeria, Umberto Corteo, that younger brothers Joe and Carlo opened in 1965 to an elegant Tuscan architectural two-story restaurant with a full-service cafe and four-star dining room. But the quality of the food has remained the same. Go.
Stella Trattoria & Bar, Blue Point
Inspired by a massive cookbook of recipes left behind by owner Jack Martino’s mother, this South Shore hotspot earned itself a spot as one of Pulse’s most buzzed-about new restaurants of 2016. The casual atmosphere features an array of pizzette, appetizers and salads, including the Stella, which is made up of chopped shrimp, string beans, bacon, shaved red onion, fresh tomatoes, lemon and vinaigrette. But one bite of the veal chop topped with shallots, shiitake mushrooms and fresh tomatoes in marsala sauce and you’ll want seconds. Go.
The Trattoria Restaurant, Saint James
Nestled in the charming town of Saint James, The Trattoria prepares rustic, comfort foods with seasonal twists. Diners are encouraged to bring their favorite bottle of wine to pair with the menu, which changes daily. Reservations are highly recommended because the eggplant parmigiana and red wine brasato with creamy polenta are known to attract large crowds. Pro tip: Cash only. Go.