Verace in Islip
On a Wednesday evening, the patio at Verace is serene. Umbrellaed tables and molded plastic chairs surround a narrow pool. The patio was carved out of the parking lot Verace shares with Tellers, its sister restaurant next door, but from the slate floor to the vine-covered walls, you'd never know it. As the sun goes down over Islip, the strung lights come up, a wooden board laden with cured meats arrives at my table, and all is right with the world.
As the week progresses, the outdoor scene heats up. Thursdays are dubbed "Meet Packing Thursdays" and feature an outdoor bar, a DJ and, frequently, a fashion show put on by a local boutique. Weekend nights rock, too, so long as it's not too buggy or muggy.
We were blessed with neither bugs nor mug and settled in for a leisurely dinner. First up: wine. Verace has a terrific, well-priced wine list -- nearly 200 bottles strong -- that covers Italy's boot from heel to toe to knee.
As for the food, it's all very likable, but I wish someone in the kitchen was holding it to a higher standard. A Caprese salad was served ice cold on a chilled plate, muting all the flavors. Linguine was drowning in clam sauce. My maltagliata (irregularly cut fresh noodles) was literally buried by the Tuscan Bolognese sauce. (The leftover portion I took home will sauce two or three servings of pasta.) Unqualified winners included grilled branzino fillet on a bed of spinach, a simple, well-dressed arugula salad and a knockout flourless chocolate-walnut cake.