Photo courtesy of

     I'll start by saying that I have never had a meal at Vincents, lunch or dinner, that was not good. In fact most of the dishes are excellent. If you've seen my reviews, you know that I'm usually not a fan of the average Southern Italian Restaurant; but Vincent's is an exception. Their gravy (red sauce or marinara to non Italians) is delicious, all the time. Even better, you can choose from a mild, medium or hot spiced marinara. As for the staples, no one makes a better Chicken Parmesan. The portions are huge, the meat is tender and juicy, and your choice of sauce makes it even better. Same for the Eggplant Rolletini. But my absolute favorite item on the menu, a long standing tradition at Vincent's; The Shrimp Ball. These days they offer it as an appetizer, but Vincent's will accommodate your every desire if they can, and they will make you a dinner of your choice of pasta or salad, and the Shrimp Balls. Do not miss them!
        All of the pasta dishes are excellent, and spaghetti and meatballs is always delicious and available. If you find it on the menu or specials, definitely try the Lobster/Seafood Pink Sauce, its consistently delicious, as is their vodka sauce and white sauces. I can't tell you much about the steak as I have not tried it, but the veal, lamb and chicken specialties are always reliable.
     Vincent's recently expanded their lunch menu to include Pannini Pressed Sandwiches (the Broccoli Rabe & Sausage is perfect); Salads, Soup and Salad Combos and Lunch-Sized portions of many dinner entrees. Finally, if you go, save room for their freshly filled chocolate covered cannoli or chocolate dipped strawberries. Excellent.
     Vincent's also offers an excellent take-out family special for dinner which includes a platter of Salad, and a choice of pasta and/or meat. For about $25-$30.00 for 4 - 6, you cannot go wrong.

Café Crust, County Rd 39, Southampton NY

photo credit:

     Here I was, on my way East again, tired and hungry.  My senses were drawing me toward Melrose East again because I loved it so much (see review below) but as I approached, there was Café Crust, all fresh, bright and new.  Its not fair to avoid them only 'cause they're all so new un-hampton-like, shiny & trendy.  But then there was the sign: Pasta Night: Salad & Choice of Pasta, $14.95.  How could I go wrong?  In fact I simply couldn't resist and I got seduced by the beautiful set-up and specials.  
     The first thing I saw when I walked in was the Gelato case, so right at that moment even if they gave me raw pasta, I was going to order just to get the gelato for dessert.  I wanted take out, with the intention of stocking the fridge for a long weekend.  First I was handed a menu - with no pasta on it.  So I asked about the specials and they were on a separate menu you had to request; about 7 choices.  A nice variety and you could add shrimp or chicken to any of your choices.  I made 3 selections (ok, after I picked out my gelato); Spaghetti with Meatballs; Fettuccine Alfredo with added Shrimp, and Fusilli with a Pesto Cream Sauce.  Each serving (more than enough for 1, enough for 2 if you're light eaters) came with a side of fresh thinly sliced Ciabatta Bread (excellent), a Salad of mixed greens, including including local vegetables.  They also threw in well made plasticware & napkins in individual pouches - for those germ-phobic customers.  Moreover, the pasta was served in those wonderful re-usable plastic containers that you can heat up in the microwave.  Since I was ordering all this at 3pm, I definitely appreciated that!  The service was fast and friendly.  Once home, I forced myself to put the gelato in the freezer. (Really, I did)  But later that night I indulged and I can say it was the best thing I had all weekend!!! I will go back just for that, and their "fountain soda," featuring Pucks all natural soda.
        As for the food: The Spaghetti and Meatballs was excellent.  The pasta was cooked perfectly, the sauce was light & flavorful, and the meatballs tasted like mom;s (to me that means dense and put in the gravy after frying).  I enjoyed that, but I would have asked for some extra sauce because, as was a bit dry & I'm used to a saucier dish.  Next, the Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp - the shrimp were large and cooked perfectly, as was the pasta.  The Alfredo sauce was thick and creamy, normally exactly how I like it, but it lacked taste.  Since I was home, a bit of sea salt & fresh ground pepper fixed that.  At Crust, they should revise this one, maybe salt the sauce, add some parsley and black pepper, even a bit of nutmeg, or a dash of ancho to perk it up.  No matter, it was good and I was able to fix it, and the shrimp helped.  Finallly, the Pesto Sauce.  I cannot say enough about this dish.  In fact, I find it hard to say anything at all.  It wasn't awful, it just wasn't anything.  Salt & Pepper didn't help.  I found myself mixing it with some sausage and red sauce I'd made the week before and froze.  In the end, I just had the salad.  
     Now, don't make that your judgment on Cafe' Crust just by this review.  1, there's the Glelato; 2, its on the way in and in the same shopping center as Bottle Hampton; 3, they deliver and they have an extensive menu including a variety of Salads, Wood-Fired Chicken Wings & Ribs and, Pizza: their own combinations or a "build your own."  They also serve a number of Pannini sandwiches: from Grilled Vegetable with Balsamic Glaze at $9.00 to Italian Tuna Panini at $15.00.  And if you check out the back of the menu, or go to their website at, you will see they even make breakfast.  Delivery at breakfast time?  I don't know, but when I find out, I'll let you know.   
So Cafe' Crust or Melrose East (across the street from each other)  I know my pick, you have to make your own decision!!
  • Spaghetti & Meatballs, Side Salad & Bread, a classic.

  • Fettuccine Alfredo w/ Shrimp. (and YES, its ok to serve fish with cheese).

  • Cavatappi (or fusilli?) in Pesto Cream Sauce & Side Salad.

Melrose East Restaurant & Pizza, 801 County Rd. 39, Southampton NY

Melrose Calamara, photo credit to Foodspotting. (We ate ours too fast to photograph!)

      I'm starting way out East, because this is important!  FINALLY, a decent Italian takeout (or eat in) pizza & Italian food restaurant in Southampton that DELIVERS!  Don't be swayed by the other listings on that say delivery, because in the midst of the summer they just don't, the only delivery is Chinese or a separate delivery service!  We've been eating at "La Parmigiana" for 50 years of so, and if you want to go out and eat great food in a crowded restaurant on the weekend, go there.  But Melrose East is the best Italian I've had in the Hamptons in years!
     So, I found this new place on line and the menu looked quite appealing.  I guessed I'd be in for a long weekend and ordered a lot of stuff.  Thank goodness I had some company, because the servings are huge.  The Shrimp Parm hero was fantastic.  The bread was crispy and the shrimp were tender.  Nice job.  The Eggplant Parm Pizza w. eggplant, ricotta & mozzarella actually arrived with a crispy crust!  Ha - where do you find that anymore? It could have fed 6 people!   Then I couldn't resist ordering the Bowtie Pasta w/ a Gorgonzola light pink sauce, with diced bacon, plum tomatoes and mushrooms.  Incredible.  It was enough for one person to eat 3 times!  Even the side order of Meatballs weren't bad at all.  
Melrose - open just about a year - and I hope they stay. They even took my credit card over the phone.   Skip Crust across the street and go here.  If you're in the mood, they even have Mexican Food like burritos, tacos and fried chicken!  Thanks Melrose - so happy not to have to leave my deck!  See my profile for more of my reviews.

TUTTO PAZZO, 84 New York Ave., Huntington NY (water view)

Photo by Tutto Pazzo on Facebook.

   Just another Italian restaurant?  Nope, I don’t think so, not this time.  I happened upon Tutto Pazzo in Huntington quite by accident at the last minute because my favorite Huntington stand-by is closed on Monday nights.  Next best thing is a trip down to the water and just across from the docks parking is Tutto Pazzo, where I discovered this lovely Italian restaurant run by 2 brothers – a family run restaurant, but with lots of sprucing up.  They may have something going here.
    I was warmly welcomed and checked in, but was waiting for two of my closest friends that evening.  When you walk in you see a beautiful glass counter filled with Italian delicacies, across from a beautifully decorated bar and a comfortable lounge area where I could relax and wait.  When we were all there we were seated immediately, provided with menus and a wine list, offered tap or sparkling water and the most incredible bread basket I’ve seen in awhile, filled with all sorts of breads and even mini rice balls.  The wine list is filled with some beautiful wines from Italy and if I was drinking that night I would not have hesitated at all.  They also include some California wines and some from Long Island if that is too your taste.  Beyond that, your selection is limited.
    After that, nothing is limited at Tutto Pazzo.  All their pasta is homemade, as is their homemade mozzarella.  Their ravioli is hand “twisted” like perfect candy wrappers holding a surprise for you.  Their menu is large but not overwhelming.  In addition to their variety of homemade pastas served in a variety of ways, there is most definitely something for everyone.  From Entrée Salads (one with Lobster, Shrimp, Crabmeat & Goat Cheese, on top of greens and assorted other delicacies- at $25.00 no less! or a Sashimi Salad w/ Tuna, Salmon, mixed greens & walnuts, all for $18.00) to Meats including Veal Saltimbocca at $26.00, Chicken Pazzo w/ eggplant, roasted peppers & mozzarella.  There is also a  whole section of vegetarian dishes such as Grilled Eggplant Pomodoro w/ Linguini at $18.00.  Of Course any decision you make will likely be trumped by the specials, which taste even better than they are.  The night we were there I had an appetizer special of my absolute favorite thing “mozzarella burratta”, over a thick slice of tomato, fresh basil, thinly sliced prosciutto over a small greens salad.  I shared with the table because they were my friends, but I so wanted to eat it all myself.  It was so fresh, so creamy, so perfectly made.  Thank you Joey and Luigi. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I had the entrée special of a Lobster Fettuccini Carbonara with their imported prosciutto which was absolutely unbelievable and which I took most of home because the portion is so large.  I can’t wait to eat it tonight.  My friends had the Risotto w/ Broccoli Rabe & Crumbled Sausage and loved it.  You can also have your pasta Gluten Free or Whole Wheat, and if for some reason you don’t want homemade pasta, they will serve you Barilla or DiCecco (although I’m not sure why you would want that). 
      Finally, I’m sure you noticed that I rarely, if ever, put prices in my reviews.  But this is Huntington we’re talking about.  The Restaurant Mecca of Long Island.  The prices are over the top at almost every restaurant you walk into.  Anything with Veal would be no less than $40.00, Shrimp – $30 to $35, Salads with seafood or sashimi typically are some of the most expensive.  But for some reason at Tutto Pazzo they have found a way to serve beautiful homemade dishes, with fresh ingredients in an inventive yet tasteful way, all at a reasonable price – in Huntington, in a restaurant with beautiful décor overlooking the water!  Tutto Pazzo, totally crazy.  Yes, they are and I am totally impressed.  Give this one a try soon.  Go around sunset, its gorgeous. 
  • Breads and Appetizer of Mozzarella Burratta w/roasted peppers, tomato, basil & prosciutto.

  • Lobster & Fettuccini Carbonara w/ prosciutto & peas.

  • Risotto with Crumbled Sausage and Broccoli Rabe & Olive Oil.

FANATICO, 339 N. Broadway, Jericho, NY

Hot breads, focaccia, ciabatta & 1 dirty martini!

    Fanatico has been around for awhile, hidden away just across Broadway from my favorite Red Lobster, since 2006! (Yes, I like Red Lobster and I don’t have to defend myself!).  I’m not sure why I’ve never heard of it, but I know I’ve never seen it – hidden away like that in the corner of the first shopping center off the Northern Parkway.  I only came upon it now because they joined Open Table (which is my favorite way to find a new restaurant).  Ok, its not new, but it certainly looks new, or modern or updated, and definitely trendy.  They make a mean Dirty Martini, as you’ll see when you check out the pictures of that and the bread basket.  So lets jump right into that bread basket.  Be careful, be very careful.  Its brought to the table warm quickly, with butter (or oil which is already on the table), seductive, and delicious, and it will be gone before you finish that martini. 
    When I chose it, and when we walked in, I thought it was new and I was prepared for your everyday (ok I have to say it “Olive Garden” food).  But we were pleasantly surprised – even after eating all the bread.  We shared a Hot Antipasto for 1 (which almost could have been for 2) and the meatballs w/ melted mozzarella.  It was all good, and it was all different.  The meatballs were mini-meatballs, with their own special sauce.  The Antipasto had whole baby baked clams, fried shrimp and baked mushrooms – each with their own individual tastes.  I hate to go to a restaurant where the seasonings on everything are the same.  Then, there were 2 piping hot slices of garlic bread and a nice sized eggplant rolletini.  I tried to get the bigger half!  We both agreed that all the appetizer samples we got were excellent, except maybe for the melted mozzarella ball that had gotten cold under the warming lights.
     By this time, the restaurant was packed, the crowd was lively, and the take-out door never stopped.  It takes a lot of organization to run a kitchen like that.  Yet our main courses arrived piping hot.  I ordered the Risotto with caramelized onions, mushrooms and crumbled sausage.  I expected lots of risotto and a bit of sausage crumbled on top.  As you can see, I got just the opposite – a steaming bowl of risotto filled with sweet caramelized onions and thinly shaved  mushrooms and so much crumbled sausage (out of the casing) that I had to look for the rice! It was full of flavor and exactly what I imagined, but didn’t dare expect.  What a nice surprise, and such a generous portion I couldn’t finish it.  My husband ordered one of the specials of the day, a Filet of Red Snapper with baby clams and mussels with a light red tomato broth over sauteed spinach.  I was concerned about this choice but you never know unless you try.  That bite of Red Snapper was one of the freshest and sweetest fish I have eaten that wasn’t sushi.  The dish was excellent.
     In the end, there was no room for dessert, so I cannot comment.  I can tell you that the prices are excellent and a bill of just about $90.00 including drinks, tax and tip is a bargain anywhere these days.  The service was competent, but you did have to flag down a waiter if you needed something.  On a friday night in a restaurant that busy, I’m not going to complain, and from the way that take-out door was moving, I’m ordering a pizza next!
  • Hot Antipasto for One

  • Risotto w/ caramelized onions and mushrooms & crumbled sausage

  • Red Snapper, Baby Clams, Mussels over sautéed spinach.

RED, Huntington, NY

Across the street from Besito in Huntington, you will find this lovely little hideaway called Red. The name gives away nothing, but it's worth the surprise if you're in the area looking for a place to eat. (After all, Huntington is Long Island's restaurant row!). When you walk in you notice the striking decor, all designed around red, at once cozy & romantic, while remaining hip and unusual. So go in and sink into one of those comfy chairs, and enjoy your dinner.

At Red, I had the absolute best lasagna I have ever eaten. I don't know what they do to it to get the inside so creamy and cheesy, and still keep the noodles al dente, but I do know the top was covered with a bechamel that is heavenly. The seafood I'd fresh and well prepared. The staff and chef are so accommodating. When the calamari salad appetizer came out as a cold salad, and it wasn't what a friend expected, they simply took it back and made her fried calamari - which wasn't even on the menu! Gotta love that. Their soup of the day was a lobster bisque, which was silky and rich, and do try the crab salad Napoleon with avocado mousse.
For your entree, have the lasagna. If they don't have it that evening, the risotto and cavatelli bolognese are also excellent choices. The seafood at Red is fresh and puts a new spin on Italian. Try the Seared Scallops in lobster sauce and vegetable ragout, or the shrimp curry with mango chutney. Then, of course, there is always Tuscan chicken, or grilled steaks like the Grilled shell steak with spices Gorgonzola au Poivre.
I can't say anything much that was wrong with Red, so go, and enjoy it.

Umbertos of New Hyde Park,

Umberto's is as good as it ever was. At a party for 30 on a Saturday night, plates of hot antipasto were served immediately, along with their famous grandma pizza. The antipasto was plentiful and delicious, the stuffed shrimp cooked perfectly, the baked clams fresh and made with whole baby clams, and the stuffed mushrooms and eggplant rolletini disappeared in an instant. Although I thought the pizza sauce was a bit too acidic, it was otherwise unanimous that the pizza was excellent. Then 30 people ordered from the menu and specials, and the wait staff managed to get them all out simultaneously, hot and cooked perfectly, all exactly to the right person. You don't see that too often. My pasta wth shitake mushrooms and shrimp in a very light cream sauce was so good I tried to eat all of it. The stuffed veal chop was another favorite, tender, and stuffed with mozzarella cheese and prociutto, with a mushroom wine sauce on top.
If you haven't been there, go. If you have been there, go again.

Verona Ristorante, Mellville Road, Farmingdale NY

We have to give a definite yes to this upscale and romantic Italian restaurant on Melville Road in Farmingdale, just across from the college. You will be warmly greeted at the door, and the staff is plentiful and accommodating. So far the food has been just about perfect every time we have been there - and that is quite a few times! As pictured here, the veal chop is one of the specials and is delectable. In fact, you might as well put down the regular menu because their daily changing list of specials are the best. A squid ink pasta with seafood was delicious, as was a pink pesto pasta with shrimp. The short ribs are a must try. I must confess to ordering pasta from the main menu, which is reasonably priced, and it also was excellent. Go, meet the owners as you walk in, and dont forget the rose for the ladies as you leave.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Fondue w/ dipping items.

     The food was good, the service was friendly, and when you go early to an empty restaurant, they let you sit anywhere. Even a big comfy booth made for six!  And, considering I was going for the lobster mac n cheese, which came highly reccommended, I expected a much more pricey menu, along with the hospitable service.  Not so.  Their prix fixe menu for dinner was only $19.95, and lunch for $14.12.  Both include coice of Appetizer, Dinner, Coffee or Tea, and lunch includes a glass of Sangria.  More importantly, the choices on the dinner menu are significant and contain much of what is on the regular menu (appetizers like clams, calamari & mussels and dinner like steaks, pastas, burgers, and their special flatbread pizzas). 

     Unfortunately, I wanted the lobster mac & cheese anyway, so we ordered it to share.  It was delicious with hints of lobster in the creamy, cheesy sauce - but I was concerned that some of those strips of "lobster" looked suspiciously like that fake crab you get in the chinese restaurants.  Maybe it was just me.  I did find some lobster knuckles, but no claw meat.  Like I said, we finished it anyway.  Then we had the baked clams oreganata, but boy were they small, as small as vongele and there were only 4.  If they took them from Long Island, they would be illegal.  However, they were powerful in taste and the lemon butter sauce was good enough to wipe up with the bread. 

     I had the rigationi in a light gorgonzola cream sauce with crumbled sausage and spinach.  It was good, but hard to remember what I ordered by the time I ate it.  There was a sensuous creaminess, but I did not taste the cheese, or the sausage.  My husband ordered what was supposed to be a whole Bronzino, filleted, along with 2 vegetable sides.  The sides were delicious, but no way was that fish whole, filleted or not.  The fish was one half Bronzino, fileted, and was overcooked.  Since it was one of the Chef's specials, that was a bit odd. 

     So, skip right to dessert, Peanut Butter Chocolate Fondue.  See photo.  It was delicious.  Go on ladies night for $7.00 sangrias and chocolate fondue.  I'm going to post a few more photos below, just for you to see what I meant.  Meanwhile, for an Italian restaurant whose entrees average $15.00, some down to $10.00 all the way to a NY Strip or Filet Mignon for $24.00.   For a quick Italian meal, maybe I would go back.  the service is knowledgeable and helpful.  But for gourmet Italian, this is not the place.  (And with Smokin Al's and La Bottega just about across the street, why bother?)

See below for additional photos.

  • Mercato's Baked Clams Oreganata (there were 4) and Lobster Mac & Cheese.

  • Rigatoni Gorgonzola & Sausage (don't see much sausage)

  • Lunch Prix Fix, for $14.95, including a glass of Sangria. Could definitely be worth going back for lunch.

CAFE BACI, Old Country Rd., Westbury, NY

Who doesn't love Baci? Its very hard not to. The staff is warm and friendly, and the food is well-prepared, traditional and delicious. When you walk in the door you are greeted by the hostess and the manager. I swear he has a photographic memory because even if you've only been there once he will remember you the next time with a sincere welcome back!
The menu is extensive and there is something for everyone from traditional Italian hot antipasto (eggplant, baked clams, shrimp, peppers and stuffed mushrooms) which is delicious, to a hamburger if you must. Often at lunch, you will be treated not only to your required bread basket of warm italian bread and focaccia, but also a dish of fried matchstick zucchini which is out of this world.
I happen to be there for lunch many times and I can tell you honestly that I have never had anything I didn't like. The staff is attentive and accommodating, and if you want something not on the menu, they will try and make it for you. They don't balk at substitutions. In fact, they seem happy to do it. Their lasagna is very good and full of meat and cheese. The portions are significantly large, so order judiciously. I've often made a meal of the appetizer of 3 large meatballs & mozzarella and a bowl of their delicious tortelloni soup.
The pasta selections include Cavatappi Secreto (diced meatballs, sausage, peas in a pink tomato sauce); Spaghetti & Meatballs (of course); Rigatoni with Vodka sauce; Cavatelli Tutto Funghi (chicken, portobella, shitake & wild mushrooms in a light brown sauce), and the list goes on and on.
The entree list is similarly extensive, but my absolute favorite, the one thing I keep going back for, is Pollo Baci. Breast of chicken covered with melted Italian white cheeses, cream sauce, zucchini, eggplant and a touch of tomato sauce. Veges on the side. I cannot even describe how incredibly luscious this is. Its rich and calorie laden, so I always take half home. But its worth it. Here you will also find their seafood entrees like filet of sole oreganata, mixed seafood in a light marinara over linguini, jumbo shrimp fra diavolo, shrimp parmigiana, and so on.
Don't skip over the personal pizza's if you're into that, and the burgers and pannini at lunch time.
Excellent service, friendly comfortable atmosphere, and more than reasonable prices will keep you going back.


Although Italian Restaurants are not normally my first choice, Absolutely Mario's charm and warm attention to their customers won me over. The atmospher is designed so that there are comfotable romantic corners, yet there is always room for a family, or special event. At Absolutely Mario, you are made to feel like part of their family.
The food is mostly excellent. The stuffed shrimp appetizer was perfectly cooked and lightly crusted and the fried calamari was very good. The Lamb Chops came out perfectly crusted on the outside and medium rare inside. The "Absolutely Seafood" was not overcooked nd neither was the pasta. Other standouts on the menu include seared veal scallopini with mozzarella, fresh tomato & soprassata in a light brown sauce, and the Farfalle Primavera, in garlic & oil.
The service is special and attentive, the wine list is decent. The menu is sufficiently varied that you can find just about anything you want, but if it is not there, they will make it for you, ABSOLUTELY!
Its cozy & homey and I would reccommend it.

CAFE TOSCANO, Massa[equa, NY


Ciao Baby, Massapequa Italian

Rice Ball at Ciao Baby

 Open for a couple of years now, Circa has established a reputation for good Italian food, and poor service. I have been there a number of times, and this is what I've found:
The food menu is not extensive, but the wine list is. The food is representative of both southern and northern Italy, depending on what you order. The chicken marsala is very good, as is the veal chop. The eggplant rolletini from the lunch menu. In fact, they have an excellent $10.00 lunch specials menu with the Italian classics, salads and wraps. However, you may not be able to get in and out in an hour because of the service. Circa does have a number of pasta dishes, and the gemelli with sausage & broccoli rabe is very good. I had a personal size pizza Margherita - which was ok, not as crispy as it should be, and don't go for the sandwiches, its not worth it
Overall, I go periodically for lunch, but I wouldn't take anyone there for dinner given all the other choices in the area. It is not the best value for the money.

Circa Ristorante - Enoteca

Interior at Circa.

Open for a couple of years now, Circa has established a reputation for good Italian food, and poor service. I have been there a number of times, and this is what I've found:
The food menu is not extensive, but the wine list is. The food is representative of both southern and northern Italy, depending on what you order. The chicken marsala is very good, as is the veal chop. The eggplant rolletini from the lunch menu. In fact, they have an excellent $10.00 lunch specials menu with the Italian classics, salads and wraps. However, you may not be able to get in and out in an hour because of the service. Circa does have a number of pasta dishes, and the gemelli with sausage & broccoli rabe is very good. I had a personal size pizza Margherita - which was ok, not as crispy as it should be, and don't go for the sandwiches, its not worth it
Overall, I go periodically for lunch, but I wouldn't take anyone there for dinner given all the other choices in the area. It is not the best value for the money.