La Pace with Chef Michael
51 Cedar Swamp Rd. Glen Cove, NY 516-671-2970
This venue is closed.Hours: Tues-Thurs: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sat: 4 p.m.-11 p.m.; Sun: 1 p.m.-9:30 p.m.; Mon: closed. Credit cards: Accepted Party size: Party rooms Notable dishes: Grilled branzino, grilled lamb chops, fusilli with veal sauce, panzanella, all desserts.
La Pace is one of the few Long Island restaurants no diner would want to overhaul. But owner Angelo Ventrella, who personified the stellar place for decades, sold it earlier this year. And ... Now, it's officially La Pace With Chef Michael, the chef-owner being Michael Mossallam, formerly of the North Hempstead Country Club.
While the establishment isn't quite the same, it's still a definite destination. The new La Pace is excellent, its personality warm and generous. The grand, high-ceiling dining room remains as it was. Likewise the seamless, gracious service from a veteran staff. What has changed, however, is the breadth and depth of the daily fare. Maybe this just reflects a period of transition, or a practical decision. While the food frequently excels, the choices are fewer and the approaches less creative.
That aside, you'll easily enjoy a gutsy onion soup gratinee, with body and soul. And panzanella, the rustic, bread salad, is appetizing and good, with tomatoes, red onion, focaccia croutons and olive oil. Grilled oysters are moist. But their own delicate flavor is overwhelmed by a blue cheese coverlet, which would be a sharp and welcome addition to a different dish. The crab "martini" is a glassful of dewy meat, paired with slices of mango - fine, but unexciting.
Fusilli with veal sauce, however, is deftly done, with tightly twisted pasta and threads of meat in a lush variation on Bolognese. Penne tossed with shrimp, white beans, escarole, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese has a savory edge. Rigatoni Siciliana, with tomatoes, eggplant and mozzarella, is well done. But gnocchi La Pace is on the heavy side, in a basic red sauce, with a bull's-eye of ricotta.
The "Sammy special" is the new name for the house's rich tortelloni Emiliana, packed with spinach and ricotta, in a Parmesan-and-pesto cream sauce. Listed among "La Pace Classic Dishes" is the grilled, whole branzino, which arrives light and appealing, accented with lemon, olive oil and roasted garlic. Big shrimp stuffed with fontina cheese, wrapped in bacon, and finished with mustard sauce, also are very satisfying.
The veal chop Milanese, capped with a tricolor salad, has that pleasing hot-cool contrast, but it's a bit dry. Better: tender marinated and grilled lamb chops, with a touch of rosemary. Chef Michael has added low-carb choices. The marinated and grilled skirt steak, glistening from bourbon, honey and soy, materializes with tasty caramelized onions and string beans. But you'll still be tempted by the dry-aged New York strip with Cheddar-scalloped potatoes. La Pace is in vintage form at dessert.
The best sweet: freshly made, warm and flaky sfogliatelle, the popular pastry shaped like a scallop shell, presented gratis. Fruit tarts are ripe, cannoli studded with chocolate chips, strawberry shortcake ready for a birthday party. Italian cookies: outstanding. And, of course, there's always La Pace's signature chocolate mousse, now airier and sweeter than usual - making it seem bittersweet in its own way.