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).