In this month’s gossip goulash: Suffolk County scores its first Vietnamese spot (pho real!), a Mexican mini-empire expands to Williston Park and a waterfront restaurant in Merrick reopens for the season, shakes it up—or like a saltshaker—with a new chef.
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SAIGON CASA It’s pho real: The first Vietnamese restaurant in Suffolk County has opened in the space formerly occupied by Vortex Asian Bistro. Jackie Nguyen and her husband Justin Trinh own it with another couple, Tuan and Hoang Nguyen. Neither of the partners are related to Jackie, who once managed a Vietnamese place in Seattle. “I was surprised not many people know Vietnamese food on Long Island, [which is why] we decided to introduce it to everyone,” she said. A simple space with palm-leaf conical hats and flat winnowing baskets adorning the walls is the setting for specialties. There will be canh ga chien nuoc mam (fried chicken wings coated in a fish sauce); spring and summer rolls; bo luc lac (the stir-fry’s English name is shaking beef, from the constant shaking of the pan performed by the cook while browning the small bits of meat); six kinds of bánh mì; a number of rice-vermicelli dishes with grilled or sliced meats; and several types of pho, including steak, brisket, tendon, tripe and beef ball. 4747 Nesconset Highway, Port Jefferson Station, 631-509-1000, facebook.com/saigoncasany.
MARGARITA’S CAFE Willie Martinez opened his Mexican restaurant in 2010 in East Meadow. It’s now a mini-empire: This is the sixth outpost. There are ample options for the lover of tacos, burritos, tortas and enchiladas. Entrees include mole poblano and huachinango a la veracruzana, red snapper in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, olives and capers. 38 Hillside Avenue, Williston Park, 516-745-0033, margaritascafe.com.
SALT ON THE WATER The island’s many waterfront establishments are reopening for the season, and here is one with a new chef. Massimo Fedozzi hails from Genoa, Italy, and has cooked at restaurants around the world. His most recent work was at the place he also owned for a brief time, Tra’mici Ristorante Italiano in Massapequa Park (which is now closed). The food is definitely not Italian. Fedozzi describes it as New American with Asian, Mexican and Latin influences. Clams with soffrito and Chipotle butter; charred octopus with cannelloni beans and a tomato-caper salsa; wheat-berry salad; and rack of lamb seasoned with North African spices are a few of the dishes. The restaurant, which shares ownership with Parlay and Mesita, both in Rockville Centre, is open for dinner every night, lunch on Saturday and Sunday brunch. At the end of May, it will be open for lunch and dinner every day. 3100 Whaleneck Drive, Merrick, 516-442-7470, saltonthewater.com.