Iavarone Cafe

1534 Union Tpke. Lake Success Center New Hyde Park, NY 516-488-5600

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Type: Italian Special features: Lunch Price range: $$$ (Expensive) Description:

While most Nassau County residents are familiar with the wonderful wares found within the prepared foods case at the Iavarone gourmet markets, this New Hyde Park outlet of the chain also features a sit-down dining space—a simple room with Tuscan yellow walls, framed artwork and fabric swooping across the ceiling. However, just as the grocery holds such treats as filet mignon tidbits, shrimp oreganata, veal Francaise and other spectacular concoctions to go, the sit-down menu holds various veal, seafood and pasta plates that pack as much massive flavor as the takeout. Everything is prepared with Italian flair—but if full main dishes aren’t your wish, heroes, panini and personal pizzas are also options for lunch or dinner.

Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 1 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Credit cards: Accepted

Seven years after its opening, Iavarone Cafe is running like a well-maintained Ferrari. And its prime location near the Queens-Nassau border and Long Island Jewish Zucker Hillside Hospital hasn't hurt. Nor has a close affiliation with the Iavarone Brothers specialty market next door. But there's more to the success of this combination pizzeria-trattoria than good location and family ties.A kitchen that runs smoothly under pressure is the sign of a truly professional operation. On an evening when the small dining room in the rear of the first level was packed with large groups (including a table for 20) and a party was in full swing in the room downstairs, not one dish came to our table sloppily plated or at the wrong temperature. Service by the young and attractive staff was friendly and efficient.

Warm focaccia topped with tomatoes and garlic arrived first, along with peasanty bread that was fresh and chewy one night, a bit stale the next. If you're at all partial to sausage, order the fine salsiccia alla griglia, Iavarone Brothers' own links, grilled and served on a hill of broccoli rabe. Fried calamari was standard, but pan-seared scallops balsamico were delicate -- caramelized, sweet and smoky. For sheer comfort, treat yourself to grilled polenta with gorgonzola and mushrooms, a dish nearly impossible to stop eating. But could the same kitchen have sent out the forgettable insalata di Capri -- a mixture of endive, baby greens, radicchio, walnuts and goat cheese in a port wine dressing that included canned pears?

The braciole listed as an ingredient in the pasta with "Mama's Sunday meat sauce" was missing from the hearty crimson ragout that also contained great sausage but dense meatballs. It was hard to improve on the linguini alla vongole, though, made with thumbnail-size clams in a garlicky, oceanic broth. Spaghetti carbonara, done with pancetta, onions, eggs and pecorino Romano, was as lush and authentic a version of the Roman classic as I've had this side of the city line. Many of the pastas can be ordered in appetizer- size portions. Cavatelli al pesto had just the right garlic-to- basil ratio, while spaghetti alla matriciana, made with onions, tomato and pancetta, delivered a smokiness that was subtle but distinct. I savored every bite of the farfalle alla Franco, butterfly-shaped pasta tossed with shrimp, tomatoes, arugula, garlic and oil.

You may request chicken scarpariello (with sausages, peppers and potatoes) on or off the bone -- either way, it's exemplary. Impressive, too, was the tender veal saltimbocca alla Romano with prosciutto and sage in a not-too-sweet Marsala sauce.

After sampling five unremarkable desserts, all I can recommend is the pecan pie. Or just have an espresso. That way, you'll be able to eat more of what Fratelli Iavarone Cafe is really known for.

 

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Iavarone Cafe 1534 Union Tpke., Lake Success Center, New Hyde Park

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