55 Shore Road Port Washington, NY 516-767-8877
Scrawled across the cover of the menu at Sisina is a long letter, written in Italian, from restaurateur Michael Tizzano to his mother.
The little trattoria that bears her name is, in essence, another expression of filial love. Tizzano has had the place decorated to re-create his native home of Capri, where Sisina Tizzano still lives.
A mural depicts a piazza, its clock tower extending up a wall and onto the ceiling. But real clotheslines, stretching between the painted buildings, sport real laundry -- a little girl's vintage sailor dress, a woman's camisole, a lace tabletop covering. Expansive floor-to-ceiling windows look out on the water across the street. When Tizzano's mom visits, she may feel she's never left home.
Homestyle Italian cooking is what Sisina's does best. I found nostalgic solace in the baked clams, whole clam meat topped with a simple, satisfying bread dressing. When pizza is as crisp and lush as the pies served here, you may end up eating more than you plan to. That's what happened to me when sharing both the margherita pie, crowned with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil, and the eggplant-topped pizza Sisina.
The Faraglioni salad, a refreshing toss of field greens, tomatoes, apples, mango, roasted pecans and goat cheese in a sherry vinaigrette, would have been even better without tomatoes. The same held true for the Grotta Azzura salad, topped with corn, shredded carrots and little rounds of slightly overcooked pancetta-wrapped chicken.
Here, baked pasta dishes -- a genre all too often bungled at so many restaurants -- are a forte. As much as I liked rich, garlicky linguine with white clam sauce, I couldn't resist returning to a friend's plate again and again for yet another forkful of the sumptuous and smoky tubettini Monte Solaro. Named for the highest point on Capri, the dish included short, stubby pasta tubes, smoked bacon, smoked mozzarella, roasted peppers and tomato sauce. Still another time, I found that just one taste of my dining companion's fusilli de Tibero was not enough. The al dente spirals baked with sausage, mozzarella and tomato sauce offered the kind of melty satisfaction I just can't seem to get enough of.
Not that I didn't like my roast chicken, which was juicy and flavorful enough. But I did have a bone to pick with the mixed grill -- overcooked sirloin and lamb tips, Italian sausage and those bacon-wrapped chicken roulades. No need to bother with such fare when you can enjoy light and savory meatballs, made with both beef and veal, in a vibrant tomato sauce over spaghetti.
No matter what the menu might say, there is only one dessert: torta Caprese, a chocolate nut tart, dense and fudgy -- Mama Sisina's love letter to Long Island.
Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 4/8/05.Hours: Lunch daily, noon to 3:30 p.m.; dinner Monday to Thursday, 4 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m., Sunday, 4 to 10 p.m.