Long Island's loudest restaurants
Welcome to Long Island's loudest restaurants, where they'll skillfully fry rice balls, shrimp tempura -- and your eardrums. Your vocal cords, too. "Not the steak, the hake," you shout at your server.
But not everybody cares about the noise. Michael DeStefano, of Bethpage, a regular at the reverberating Toro Pazzo in Wantagh, can't get enough of the restaurant's namesake chicken dish or its boom-boom-booming scene.
"I've gone to restaurants where I thought I was walking into a cemetery -- too quiet, too dull," DeStefano said. "Here, there's a sense of excitement, of being part of something that's full of energy."
A sonic energy level that may register as earsplitting to some can sound like the ka-ching of a cash register to restaurant owners. "There's some evidence that high noise levels move people through restaurants faster, so you get more revenue per seat," said Rick Neitzel, an expert in environmental noise from the University of Michigan.
"When people have a good time, they make a lot of noise," said Margaret Mueller, co-owner of the rollicking Western-style R.S. Jones in Merrick, which often features live -- and loud -- music.
"My bartenders are the most affected. They tell me they can't hear the customers."
Indeed, it's restaurant employees, not casual diners, who suffer most from the daily dose of decibels, chancing hearing loss or even cardiovascular disease, according to Neitzel, who cites recent research.
Shelby Poole, owner of the jumping Jackson's in Commack, pronounces her hearing and health just fine, thank you. And she defends the din: "This is not a quiet atmosphere; it's a loud, fun place -- a neighborhood place."
Robert Cahill of Ronkonoma dines at least twice a month at the high-volume Ragazzi in Nesconset, where he favors the angel hair with shrimp and only picks up on good vibrations.
"I love the atmosphere -- it's family-oriented, very friendly, portions are great and it's not too expensive," he said. "I guess I really don't realize that it's noisy."
Here are our picks for noisy but worth-it restaurants on Long Island:
Big bang for big bucks: The bar scene alone could raise the already high roof at this swaggering steak house. The brassy enterprise stars with dry-aged beef and pristine sushi. Try seafood chowder, mini-Kobe burgers, shellfish cocktails, too.
Sign language only: Can sushi be loud? The chamber music of dishes turns high-decibel in a setting where conversation sounds like a grudge match between AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" and Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." The "Out of Control" roll is aptly named.
Pizza, pasta and pandemonium: Recently observed first date: The guy leaves his seat and walks around to the other side of the table to speak into the woman's ear. Whether a second date ensued is anyone's guess. Moral: Go when the yen for Margherita pizza and pasta with clam sauce is all that matters.
Wall of sound: At these mass-feed parlors of pizza and cacophony, the photo and tchotchke-filled walls tell many stories. Customers, though, do best keeping quiet and digging into the amazing cauliflower pizza, supernal ribs with vinegar peppers and coal-oven-roasted wings, all of which speak for themselves.
Breaking the sound barrier: Voices become racket balls bouncing off exposed brick at this compact seafood house. Point to the blackboard so the waitress can hear your choices. Good oysters. diver scallops, crisp red snapper.
MARONI CUISINE, Northport
Echo chamber: This compact restaurant seats about 20 in a dining area where the background rock and roll music competes with chef Mike Maroni's conversation, your voices and a tasting menu that ups the ante and the decibels. Celebrated meatballs, better crisp duck.
Cover your orecchiette: They know their onions at Cipollini, and they're pretty good with the pastas, too. Order the robiola pizza, butternut squash ravioli and earmuffs. Situated in the Americana shopping center, in case you feel like boosting the local economy before or after.
THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY, Huntington, Westbury, Lake Grove
A sound meal: Noise caroms off the hard surfaces at these pseudo palaces where the decor crosses Italian palazzo with ancient Egyptian tomb. Which doesn't affect the palate- pleasing Vietnamese summer rolls, white chicken chili and Sunday brunch brioche French toast.
IL MULINO, Roslyn
Louder than the check: At the notably pricey, local branch of a brand gone national and international, people don't talk. They detonate nouns and fire a fusillade of verbs, all of which ricochet. Nod knowingly while nibbling on some Parmesan cheese or cannelloni.
K. PACHO, New Hyde Park
'Viva la revolución!': It's Veinte de Septiembre, but at K. Pacho the sounds make it seem like Cinco de Mayo every night. Who needs fireworks? Mexican chicken wings, queso fundido and churros are OK. Neither tequila nor beer will protect your ears.
Tinnitus, anyone? On a recent evening, the decibel level at this bistro-in-overdrive broke the 100 mark on an app that measures such things, raising the question: If a tray falls in the dining room, does it make a sound? Not one you'd notice amid the chatter and clatter. But, oh, those fried macaroni and cheese bites.
DODICI, Rockville Centre
Pasta with a side of earplugs: It all seems so subdued and classy. Then, the dining room fills and the joint nearly shudders. The blast could melt mozzarella and cook carpaccio. Savory panini, pastas, salads.
Say, what? Unless you have a lip-reader at your table, feel free to spill your innermost secrets, since no one will hear you. Or just silently dig into the very good vegetable burger with toasty sweet potato fries or classic roasted chicken with buttery mashed potatoes.
Fettuccine fortissimo: At this high-volume trattoria, best to lose yourself in the linguine with clams, lasagna rollatini or baked peaches. Beats straining your vocal chords on a busy night.
I scream, you scream: Orders may be best heard when shouted at this ideal spot for a family reunion -- if nobody in the family is talking to one another. The compensation: Emilio Branchinelli's lusty Italian cooking, exemplified by artisanal quality individual-size pizzotte and fresh pasta "alla mama" with meatballs, sauce and ricotta.
TORO PAZZO, Wantagh
A ringing endorsement from your eardrums: What, you expected peace and quiet in a narrow reverberating space whose Italian name translates as "crazy bull"? At least you can calm your appetite with a golden beet salad, tagliatelle with shrimp and vegetables or signature roasted chicken with hot and sweet peppers.
CIAO BABY, Commack and Massapequa Park
Sinatra goes supersonic: Rat Pack music and a deafening din may mean taking an Advil with your rice ball. But when chef Heather West is in the house, the food can make you forget the mega-noise. Lighten up with "Grandma's eggplant lasagna" and banana-laced vanilla pudding tart.
HENDRICK'S TAVERN, Roslyn
Puts the 'din' in dinner: In the main dining room, voices challenge each other for verbal one-upmanship. The chorus of I-can-talk-faster-and-louder-than-you even reaches the less-frenzied side spaces. Enjoy your sirloin with house-made tater tots and creamed spinach.
BAHIA SOCIAL CLUB, Long Beach
When all else fails, try texting: Even at a sidewalk table at this popular tapas spot, the barrage of music streaming out the open window can make it impossible to communicate with servers. So text that you'll have some of that tender, smoky grilled calamari and one of your fine fish tacos, please.
R.S. JONES, Merrick
Wear earplugs under your Stetson: It's a blast, literally, when the band gets rocking and the decibel meter hovers near the 100 mark. Still, the crowd at this decades-old country- and-Western spot eats it all up, along with the gumbo, biscuits and BBQ.