Chefs of New York
508 Larkfield Rd. East Northport, NY 631-368-3156
With its rows of tables and booths lined up in perfect order, one could imagine this room a former fast food joint or diner that has been transformed into a neat Italian restaurant—one conceived with a modern outlook, as the wall mural is seemingly painted by a young hand, and features a soft view of a dining space, rather than the more commonly-found visions of Italy. The menu also reflects a contemporary attitude, as the pizzas branch out from the average pie to a list of hand-stretched opportunities that arrive in unique styles like Melenzana (fried eggplant, roasted peppers), Abruzzi (sweet sausage, ricotta, mozzarella and provolone) and shrimp with garlic. There are many specialty pies to choose from, but the edibles also include full entrées of both familiar franchese and marsala dishes to more unusual finds like the “Chicken Al Juan” (chicken sautéed with mushrooms, peas and potato) and the “Shrimp Della Lindsey” (shrimp sautéed in a pink cream sauce with tomato, bacon).Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Credit cards: Accepted
On nights when I don't feel like cooking, I'll often head over to Chefs of New York, an East Northport standby known for good, simple Italian fare. Prices remain reasonable despite a recent renovation that has given the place the contemporary stylishness it used to lack. But it's not the soft Tuscan earth tones of the dining room that are the draw. What keeps the place hopping on a Monday or Tuesday night is a menu that, even in its updated version, offers the comforts of old favorites at bargain prices.
It has the pizza my kids crave whenever they're on Long Island. Order a slice of the lush, bechamel-topped spinach pie or, as a healthier alternative, try the pizza "lite," a whole wheat crust topped with crushed tomatoes, zucchini and a dusting of Parmesan. An individual Margherite pizzetta, crowned with fresh mozzarella, is a treat.
Your server will bring you a basket of piping hot garlic knots, which, though made with powdered garlic, are nonetheless addictive. The Caesar salad, made without anchovies, is a winner, although better without the commercial croutons. The Greek salad, an iceberg affair, has lots of feta and olives in a piquant dressing. My new favorite, though, is the new Gorgonzola salad. Topped with a mellow balsamic vinaigrette, it consists of field greens, crumbled cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries, grape tomatoes and chopped red onion.
The affable staff doesn't mind if you share your amply portioned pasta or entree, but you might want to plan on making the next night's dinner from leftovers. A platter of spaghetti and meatballs is a bright, satisfying classic. I was less impressed with the fusilli fiorite, corkscrew pasta with chicken, broccoli and sun-dried tomato in a garlic and oil sauce that did nothing to unify the ingredients. Penne Miguel, though, was delectable, a combo of quill-shaped pasta, broccoli rabe, sweet sausage and cannellini beans in a rich garlic- wine sauce. We requested our shrimp marinara spicy and got plump crustaceans in a megawatt red sauce. Super.
Impressive, too, was the tender chicken pizzaiola, boneless breasts with onions, peppers and mushrooms in a light tomato sauce topped with a judicious melt of mozzarella. Chicken Italiano, with mushrooms, artichoke hearts and provolone, proved savory and gratifying. So did the chicken prima.vera, in a vibrant tomato sauce with lots of vegetables. And you can't lose with old-fashioned chicken Parmigiana.
At lunch, the chef puts an original spin on panini by first baking a calzone crust and then stuffing it. Best is the ultra flavorsome grilled, marinated eggplant with zucchini, roasted peppers and fresh mozzarella.
Finish, if you've got room, with the airy cheesecake that is owner Michael Alfano's mom's specialty. Have an espresso, too. At these prices, it hardly pays to eat at home.
Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 10/15/04.