The Trattoria

532 North Country Rd. St. James, NY 631-584-3518

The Trattoria, a stellar Italian restaurant in St.

(Credit: Daniel Brennan)

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Critic rating: 3.5

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Type: Italian, New American Price range: $$$ (Expensive) Description:

Located in St. James, The Trattoria is a stellar restaurant that specializes in rustic Italian cuisine. The space is unpretentious and fairly priced, but the food is out of this world. Changing the menu daily still generates the same fantastic results.

Hours: Open for dinner Tuesday to Thursday 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday 6 to 9 p.m.; Saturday 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday 4 to 8 p.m. Lunch, Tuesday to Friday noon to 2 p.m. Closed Monday. Weekend reservations necessary. Ambience: Very Good Service: Excellent Reservations: Required Credit cards: Not Accepted Requirements/restrictions: Bring your own wine. Tight dining area; seats less than 30 Notable dishes: spaghetti all'Amatriciana, bucatini alla carbonara, Ocean trout
Tenderloin of pork is paired with apple-braised cabbage

Tenderloin of pork is paired with apple-braised cabbage at The Trattoria in St. James. (Credit: Daniel Brennan)

3.5

The Trattoria is the Trattoria.

Steven Gallagher, chef at Kitchen A Trattoria, bought the celebrated St. James spot in November and renamed it. Now, the restaurant is all his -- and even better.

The look has stayed pretty much the same as it was under Eric Lomando, who still runs the vibrant Kitchen A Bistro in St. James and Orto in Miller Place. Black-and-white photos, including one of the house's ravioli, decorate the unpretentious dining room. The tablecloth-free style goes with Gallagher's "rustic Italian" fare.

He changes the menu daily. But the results invariably are the same. This is a creative, genuine, fairly priced destination, worth toasting with your prime BYO wine.

Nibble on the excellent bread, and add house-made, lemony ricotta, sun-dried tomato tapenade and marinated olives. Then, consider the three-course fixed-price approach, the chef's tasting menu, or the a la carte reverie. The basic advice is to sample as many antipasti, primi and secondi as you can.

Memorable openers: soulful ribollita, the traditional soup of leftover vegetables, here fresh and enriched with chicken; smooth butternut squash soup with almond crostini; savory, tomato-braised meatballs with polenta; attentively baked littleneck clams; an appetizing salad of roasted beets with fennel, arugula, ricotta salata and pistachios. Slightly overdone shrimp with fennel puree and green harissa; and overorchestrated port-balsamic glazed ribs trail them a bit. The still-life of roasted garlic and tangy Gorgonzola, served with toasts, is very flavorful company.

Gallagher's pastas are terrific, from the smoky-sweet spaghetti all'Amatriciana and superrich bucatini alla carbonara to hearty paccheri with a suckling-pig ragù, and delicate squash-and-apple ravioli with dates and sage brown butter. And veer Bolognese with either pappardelle in meat sauce or the light, five-layer lasagna. He also prepares a grand eggplant alla Parmigiana.

Hake swims in on a puree of parsnips with Brussels sprouts and chestnuts for a fine fish course. Ocean trout arrives on a delectable raft of red cabbage and beluga lentils. Braised cabbage and rye gnocchi boost the juicy loin of pork; potato puree and spinach, the tender roasted chicken. The flaky, vinous brasato of beef finds its complement with creamy polenta.

Flourless chocolate-almond cake, maple-mascarpone cheesecake, the apple or pear crostata, and a chocolate-vanilla, two-tier crème brûlée are superior desserts.

Reserve a table -- soon.

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Where

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The Trattoria 532 North Country Rd., St. James

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