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Dining Out: New Bayside restaurant does it right

ANTHONY'S

222-02 Union Turnpike Bayside

Phone: 718 468-6020

Fax: 718 468-8177

Everybody but everybody seems to know each other at Anthony's. There's lots of hand-shaking, waving to this or that table and greetings on arriving or departing. And it seems to be place men like to go. There were three male-only tables, including one of clergy, on the recent Sunday night when we dined there.

Now this is rather surprising since Anthony's only opened in November. Besides, partners Anthony and Richard, are both Realtors who decided they wanted to open a restaurant. Presumably they knew how to pick the right location and you know what they say in the restaurant business - location, location, location.

But it takes more than that and Anthony's seems to have it. The atmosphere is pleasant with coats taken at the door to be sure you dine in comfort. The room is softly lit. The main dining area has a raised balcony with tables and a baby grand.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening, there's music "for your dining pleasure." Two ultra-fresh, red carnations on each table seems to set the tone (we care) along with gold-framed paintings along the wall. The adjacent dining room has a fireplace. A serving pantry visible between the dining room and kitchen gives you the feeling that things are well-organized back of the house.

In the front of the house, Anthony acts as host. His architect son is the bartender. And don't be surprised if you see an infant sleeping in a carrier set on a chair next to Mommy tucked in a corner at the far end of the bar. Anthony's daughter, a lawyer, has a 3-month-old girl. The night we were there his daughter-in-law sat there with Anthony Richard, 3 months old, sleeping nicely.

There are a goodly number of servers and they do a good job. But the bottom line is that the all-important food comes off very well. Chef James Bianchi does not come from Italy. Bianchi's father, who owns several restaurants in the area, does and he taught James and taught him well.

The recitation of specials is impressive and irresistible. Stuffed clams is the appetizer I loved - purely chopped clams in the shell topped with bechamel sauce set in a light, fluffy pomadora sauce. My dining companion ordered the other special, which she had been eyeing as it was carved for sharing at a neighboring table of five - a spinach-stuffed portobello with pinenuts. Something new and something wonderful.

As fine as these two appetizers are, a fresh salmon topped with bechamel sauce and served with mozzarella and tomato comes off numero uno. Stuffed mushrooms are second, but the dish uses the regular mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat in a bechamel sauce that wins out over portobello.

Although my companion seriously considered the shrimp-stuffed ravioli, fresh salmon in a pomodoro sauce was her choice and the thick slice of salmon could not have been moister. Linguine accompanied it.

My veal special was superb. Scallopine of veal topped with asparagus cuts, baby shrimp and scallops in a bechamel sauce. (Chris, we'll have to dub you the "Bechamel Chef") Now, I hesitated when I heard bechamel, but let me assure you Chris produces a very light, lovely version. You don't feel guilty or stuffed.

My side was rigatoni. Veal Anthony's sounds good with prosciutto, eggplant and cheese in a sherry wine sauce. And when did you last have sherry added? Here's an oldie that does wonders. Nice to have you back in a sauce where you belong.

Desserts did not show the same finesse. All are homemade.

Both we shared were merely good, not great. Given time, I'm sure they'll be polished. The tiramisu served in a stemmed glass lacked depth of flavor. The rum cake with sponge layers filled with custard and chocolate wasn't "rummy." Neither the light white nor dark rum flavor came through. And a wedge was placed on the plate naked. A dusting of cocoa, a drizzle of chocolate, was all that was needed.

Nonetheless, Anthony's startup is even more impressive when you consider that two members of the next generation were produced during that time. Just keep doing what you're doing once the glamour and excitement of the opening becomes routine.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Italian cuisine with continental flourishes. Piano music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Very good service. Recently opened but running smoothly.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Marinated Salmon on Greens with Toast Points...$7.95

Mushrooms Stuffed with Crabmeat with Bechamel Sauce...$7.95

Veal Anthony with Proscuitto, Eggplant and Cheese in a Sherry Wine Sauce...$14.95

New York Shell Steak...$20.95 Broiled Salmon with Dijon Sauce...$16.95

Italian Cheeseccake...$4.95

Rum Cake...$4.95

Food: Italian with continental touches

Setting: Piano music on Thurs, Fri & Sat

Service: Very good

Hours: L Mon to Fri. Open 7 days

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Street

Location: Two blocks west of Springfield

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: All major

Children: Accommodate

Private parties: To 100

Off premise catering: Yes

Takeout: Yes Smoking: At bar

Noise level: Quiet

Handicap access: Yes

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