Restaurant Review: Calogero’s

Restaurants need not be perfect to be popular. That’s especially true for Italian restaurants for which local diners have had a long standing love affair. Typical of the genre is Calogero’s in Garden City, a well established, solid, Italian restaurant with a longtime devoted following that offers more hits than misses.

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It’s a sophisticated, subdued, high-ceilinged spot of white table cloths, candles and a long, inviting bar. Its menu offers 11 pastas, 6 pizzas, 10 appetizers, 6 salads and 12 entrées with all the Milanese, Sorrentino, Marsala, Francese and Parmigiano dishes that most diners would ever want. For good measure, there’s even a daily dinner special menu with five or so additional entrée possibilities and an extensive wine list. After sampling four starters, four entrees and three desserts, I found no failures or spectacular successes.

An antipasti of four house-made meatballs ($11) was generous and tasty but lukewarm at best while a massive roasted fig salad ($13) alive with figs was all it should be. Vegetarians can opt for the no surprise mozzarella fritti ($14) with its predictable mix of cheese, tomatoes and arugula.

A main course of papardelle con carne ($21) was long on braised short rib ragu and ricotta cheese but short on seasoning and flavor. The La Cappa Santa ($27), or four pan seared scallops with truffled cauliflower puree and sun dried tomato puree accompanied by a large mound of vegetable risotto, was a light delight. Braciola ($28), a frenched reduction enhanced with hot cherry peppers, rosemary Parmesan potatoes and sautéed vegetables, was abundant and tasty but slightly tough. The pollo arrosto or rosemary and thyme rubbed chicken breast ($26) sported the same plate mates as the braciola with no toughness problems.

Dessert is the strongest course at Calogero’s. All of them contain multi-ingredient plates. Order the warm chocolate cake ($8) for instance and get it with vanilla ice cream and a big puff of whipped cream. Also recommended is the so-called bourbon banana pudding (actually warm banana bread).

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.