The best lasagna on Long Island
Layered with history as well as cheese, lasagne of all kinds have contented pasta lovers since the Greeks had a word for it. "Laganon" meant a sheet of dough cut into strips; "lasanan," a cooking pot. Both became "lasanum" for the Romans. The plate in which the pasta was cooked then evolved into the dish itself. All of which shows how long it has been around and how many possibilities there are. On LI, the versions vary from the classic Bolognese with béchamel to more Southern Italian styles with little meatballs, crumbled sausage, even hard-boiled eggs. In the pleasurable pursuit of the primo lasagna, here are Newsday's choices for the 9 best in Nassau and Suffolk. Mangia bene. -- PETER M. GIANOTTI & JOAN REMINICK, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Sal's(Credit: Daniel Brennan)
Sal's Ristorante, Smithtown: The vegetable lasagna ($14.95) here is particularly vibrant. The surprise is that it doesn't have any cheese, making it a good choice for vegans. Executive chef Pedro Alvarez blanches and seasons zucchini, eggplant, roasted red peppers, carrots and broccoli. Over a layer of marinara sauce goes another of the finely cut vegetables, which are topped with noodles; the layering is repeated. When ordered, a slab is heated in the oven before being plated with tomato sauce and chopped parsley on top.
Patrons sip drinks, eat and socialize in the dining room of Sal's Ristorante in Smithtown on Jan. 11, 2014.
The Trattoria(Credit: Daniel Brennan)
The Trattoria, St. James: Chef-owner Steven Gallagher's five-layer lasagna Bolognese ($21) begins with house-made pasta. It's blanched and layered first with tomato sauce that includes onion and garlic, grated Pecorino-Romano cheese; then with a "crumbled" Bolognese sauce made of beef, pork, guanciale, or cured pork jowl, heavy cream and dry red wine; and followed by béchamel sauce with grated Fontina cheese. The airy and lush lasagna is baked covered, then uncovered, and served in a terra-cotta cazuela pot.
From left, Andrew Salvemini and his wife Debbie, of Smithtown, Donna Tenreiro and Darleen and Al Couto, all of St. James, chat over dessert in the cozy dining room of The Trattoria, on Feb. 14, 2014.
Emilio's(Credit: Doug Young)
Emilio's, Commack: Emilio Branchinelli's three-layer Italian American lasagna ($14) features ground beef, mozzarella, a blend of regular and impastata (extra-creamy) ricotta, spices and fresh pasta. Branchinelli also shaves some hard-boiled egg between each layer. He brushes the top of the construct with a plum tomato sauce before baking it. When ordered, a "hearty homestyle cut" is returned to the oven for a short time, topped with more sauce and some shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Booth dining at Emilio's restaurant in Commack on Feb. 23. 2014, where owner Emilio Branchinelli makes a three-layer Italian-American lasagna.
Abeetza(Credit: Jeremy Bales)
Abeetza Next Door, Greenvale: This lush zucchini lasagna ($15) is the answer for those who prefer eating low-fat, low-carb and gluten-free. Abeetza's chef-owner Joseph DeLorenzo starts by slicing zucchini lengthwise, "eggplant style," salting and then draining the slices to get out the excess water and then lightly grilling them. The sliced zucchini is then treated like pasta, layered with a mixture of goat cheese, ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano. A little red sauce goes on top before it's baked and allowed to set. When ordered, it's warmed and then served on a bed of sauteed baby spinach. More red sauce then goes on top
Joseph DeLorenzo is chef and owner of Abeetza Next Door, the stylish little Italian restaurant connected to a long-standing pizzeria and market, Abeetza Pizza, in Greenvale on Glen Cove Road. He's seen in the kitchen on Aug. 31, 2013.
Butera's(Credit: Jeremy Bales)
Butera's, Woodbury, Smithtown, and Sayville: Butera's makes its unusual unlayered lasagna ($18-$32) in a skillet. You may order it in many varieties, such as chicken meatball, vegetable and seafood, but a favorite is the version done with house-made veal sausage. The crumbled sausage is sauteed in a pan with tomato cream sauce and fresh spinach. Then, herbed ricotta and fresh malfada (thin curly-edged strips of pasta) go in. The blend is transferred to a casserole, topped with mozzarella and run under the broiler until golden brown.
The dining room at Butera's restaurant in Smithtown on Aug. 28, 2012.
Casa Rustica(Credit: Doug Young)
Casa Rustica, Smithtown: The lasagna Bolognese ($23) at Mimmo and Benedetto Gambino's Casa Rusticais is a three-layer assemblage that commences with house-made pasta. Chef Brian Weissis' generous, richly flavored version layers the sheets of pasta with béchamel sauce, a savory Bolognese sauce made with beef, veal and pork, and fresh ricotta and mozzarella. More of the meat sauce is added to the top layer of pasta, and the dish is served with extra tomato sauce on the side.
The warm-toned dining room invites conversation at Casa Rustica in Smithtown on Feb. 23, 2014.
Ciao Baby(Credit: Doug Young)
Ciao Baby, Commack and Massapequa Park: While chef Heather West is no longer executive chef of the two Ciao Baby restaurants, her signature entree, Grandma's eggplant lasagna ($24.95), remains a menu standby. With eggplant a stand-in for pasta, the thinly sliced vegetable is first salted, to get the water out, lightly floured, fried and then layered with whipped egg, Parmigiano-Reggiano and a mixture of basil, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic. Sauce is added every few layers and also goes on top. When ordered, a hefty slab, enough to feed two to three, is reheated with sauce and topped with more Parmigiano-Reggiano. A dollop of ricotta goes into the plate.
Ciao Baby restaurant in Commack has a lively dining room.
Spezia(Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)
Spezia, St. James: Three layers of house-made pasta and a full-flavored Bolognese define this lasagna dish.
Co-workers from BC Systems in Setauket gather a Spezia in St. James on Dec. 13, 2013; from left, Gail D'Onofrio, Angela Politi, Eddie Califano, Bill Lawson, Iva Fitzgerald, Kevin Jewett, Donna Dawson, Tony Monaco, Jorge Alzate and Dianne Buhler.
Eric's Italian Bistro(Credit: Jeremy Bales)
Eric's Italian Bistro, Mineola: Chef-owner George Echeverria's three-layer lasagna ($17) begins with fresh pasta but is defined by his whipped, creamy, well-seasoned ricotta impastata, which precludes any need for béchamel sauce. Layers of traditional marinara sauce, a meaty beef, veal and pork-laden sauce Bolognese, and a melted-cheese top with fresh mozzarella finish the homey, very satisfying production, a special that turns every day into Sunday.
Jean Spina, left, of Westbury, and her niece Liz Spina, of Merrick, are served by Kurt Ihlkaiser of Mineola at Eric's Italian Bistro on Feb. 21, 2014. Eric's Italian Bistro in Mineola serves a traditional lasagna in an individual dish.