Nick's Tuscan Grill review
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Superstorm Sandy moved Nick's Tuscan Grill from Long Beach to Mineola.
The original restaurant was severely damaged and unable to reopen. Now, it's back, on a different corner that has housed restaurants for decades. Most recently, it was home to Andiamo; most famously, Villa Altadonna. And the polished, dark wood-and-soft glow look remain, a reminder of the departed Bistro Saint Germain.
But it's the classic 1924 poster of a pasta eater, designed for the G. Nocetti hotel-restaurant in Zurich, that provides the clearest idea of what's to come.
Having little to do with grilling and even less with Tuscany, the transported spot does make a very smooth transition, emphasizing Italian-American favorites. Nick's will remind you of everyone's neighborhood restaurant, friendly, familiar and mostly dependable. The paparazzi will not find you here.
You, however, will find ricotta-stuffed meatballs.
These husky rounds are among the better appetizers, with a center of cheese and plenty of tasty red sauce. They'd be just as good in a hero sandwich. Rice balls, or arancini, also are generous and worth sampling. You may continue the theme with satisfying, crisp ricotta fritters.
Baked clams are good. Standard-issue fried calamari benefit from either fra diavolo sauce or basil aioli. The square pizzette, made with cracker-crunch crusts less than 1 / 8 inch thick, suggest huge pita chips. They're flat in many ways.
No such problem with either the hefty pappardelle Bolognese, in a ragù made with braised short ribs and sweet sausage; or the straightforward eggplant rollatine served with penne. Eggplant Parmigiana and linguine primavera with marinara sauce also are reliable choices.
But lasagna layered with chopped clams, squid, tiny shrimp, mussels and scallops qualifies as a misdemeanor. It's sealed together but never harmonizes. Seafood arrabbiata represses its anger and its spice via overcooked shellfish and capellini. Nick's turns out a satisfactory grilled whole branzino, finished with lemon-caper brown butter. The risotto that accompanies it, however, is pasty.
Filet mignon au poivre, with mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus, is one of the top main courses. So are the braised beef short ribs with mashed spuds and the tender, juicy osso buco. Sample the bone-in roasted chicken rather than the pretty plain version of lemon chicken.
And instead of the thin-brownie sundae or the crème brûlée cheesecake, stick with the cannoli, as you would have on East Park Avenue.