Sam Ismail, the chef and owner of Bella Cucina Pizzeria Restaurant in West Islip, is a staple in the pizza biz. The Naples native came to America in 1992 and first settled in the then heavily Italian neighborhood of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, before moving to Long Island. He previously owned PortoFino in Levittown and currently co-owns Gino’s of Sayville.
He opened his latest venture, the 30-seat Bella Cecina, at 424 Montauk Highway in September to fill a void in the area’s family-friendly pizzeria-restaurant scene. “I kept hearing, ‘We needed something like this in West Islip.’”
The response to his scratch-made offerings has been “very good,” Ismail said. “It’s a very nice town.” In addition to pizza, the menu boasts a selection of heros, salads, pastas, appetizers and entrées. The following five are among his customers’ favorite selections.
This dish harkens back to Ismail’s time in Brooklyn, where a favorite style is to turn things upside down and put cooked tomato sauce atop mozzarella on a thick Sicilian pie. It’s seasoned to perfection, with a nice, garlicky kick.
Linguine di Mare
There are more than two dozen pasta dishes on the menu, but Ismail said this one has customers salivating. It comes with shrimp, mussels and New Zealand and littleneck clams in a choice of marinara, fra diavolo or roasted garlic and virgin olive oil.
This authentic, thin crust pie is made with homemade mozzarella, plum tomato sauce and fresh chopped basil.
Everything’s better with avocado. This salad is a restaurant favorite, with seasonal mixed greens, grilled chicken, crumbled gorgonzola cheese for some tang, tomatoes and avocado in a balsamic vinaigrette.
What would any pizzeria be without an excellent rice ball? This one is stuffed with chopped meat, green peas and mozzarella and covered in Japanese breadcrumbs before it’s fried.