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Italian food at its best at Luigi Q in Hicksville

Owner Luigi Quarta is a visible presence at

Owner Luigi Quarta is a visible presence at his restaurant Luigi Q. (July 8, 2010) (Credit: Bruce Gilbert)

I’ve been kvetching a lot lately about dining in Nassau County, so I am happy to report on a wonderful meal Wednesday night at Luigi Q in Hicksville.

This is one of those restaurants where the best way to order is just to surrender yourself to whatever proprietor Luigi Quarta suggests. Our meal started with one of the house specialties, deep-fried green peppers that range from piquant to spicy, and progressed to wedges of sweet cantaloupe draped with salty prosciutto. Next up, fried whole whiting with a greaseless, delicate crust.

Quarta told us that he makes the best crabcake in the world, a seemingly crazy boast. Then he brought over the crabcake and we were forced to admit that he wasn’t far off: Huge chunks of fresh crab with just enough seasoned breading to cohere into a fat disk. A bowl of octopus had been braised tender and finished with hot peppers, fresh mint and olive oil. Finally: linguine with barely cooked cuttlefish, yellow peppers and cherry tomatoes.

These dishes were barely “plated:" The peppers were served with the garlic that they had been fried with; the whiting came with a lemon wedge, the crabcake sat on a roseate sauce. Most shared a reliance on good olive oil, salt and peperoncino — accents that amplify rather than mask the true flavor of fresh food.

Quarta is from Brindisi, an ancient city in the Italian region of Apulia. His best dishes are not restaurant inventions, but simple preparations that recall his own mother's kitchen. A kitchen, it appears, that thankfully hadn't heard of balsamic drizzle.

Luigi Q is at 400 S. Oyster Bay Rd., Hicksville, 516-932-745.

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