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The Courtyard: The Courtyard in Great Neck is inviting, outdoors or inside

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THE COURTYARD

770 Middleneck Road, Great Neck

516-504-0060

Fax 516-504-1090

The Courtyard at Great Neck. Doesn't that sound ideal for dining on a summer evening?

And we discovered that they have a very special "Dinner at Dusk" menu. That's for us.

The Courtyard, located in old Great Neck, is out of the bustle - keep driving north on Middleneck Road. There are tables with umbrellas outdoors in a courtyard on the left. Whether you sit indoors or out it's all very inviting and relaxing. A decorator from Florida did a serene job with aubergine overhead and a light draping of sheer fabric over the rounded bank of windows looking out on the courtyard. Mammoth potted ferns hang overhead and there's a small dining area to the side great for private parties of 25 or so.

The Dinner at Dusk menu from 5 to 6 o'clock includes soup or garden salad, choice of entree and coffee, tea and dessert. What impressed us was the entree selection - 17 of them, from sesame-crusted tuna to grilled vegetable platter (zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, red peppers and are carrots). There are seafood, chicken, pasta, pork chops, and sliced shell steak. The soups: chicken noodle, minestrone and pasta fagiola.

The pasta fagiola was ultra bland but with shakers of salt and white pepper at hand and a liberal dousing, it became one of the better versions that I've encountered. The pasta, cut ziti, was just right. Bravo for the garden salad, generously sized and very fresh-looking.

A tall, slim bottle with a thickish brown dressing is placed on the table. It doesn't look like the usual and doesn't taste like the usual - thank goodness! The recitation of salad dressings has become a bore. Dressing a la Courtyard is delightful.

We thought the hot rolls with smoked mozzarella and tomato were very special and it was certainly believable that some people come in just for them.

Grilled chicken and sun-dried tomatoes caught my fancy. It was a production of penne pasta, with a profusion of chopped spinach in a white wine sauce with chicken chunks and chewy sun-dried tomatoes. Delicious. Her lobster ravioli could not compare. But there was a risotto seafood made to order, veal margarita and veal marsala and even grilled salmon and monk fish in a light tomato sauce.

The three Diner at Dusk dessert choices were topnotch - tiramisu (a wonderfully light version), Italian cheese cake (to me, a cross between ricotta and the regular version) and a Napoleon cake (I'd like to try that. Is it like the cake I buy in Chinese bakeries?)

The Dusk menu is just a tease. The dinner menu is exciting. Take: The pear salad with field greens, pears, goat cheese, walnuts and a honey vinaigrette. Or basil salad with tomatoes, roasted peppers, onions, cucumbers. fresh mozzarella, capers and celery. Or portobello mushroom salad with portobello mushrooms, arugala tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Then there's calamari lucianan with squid sauteed with onions in a white wine sauce. Rigatoni a la campagnola with escarole, sausage, cannelini beans, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes and garlic is intriguing.

The luncheon menu goes from appetizers to entrees but also includes a great array of specialty sandwiches and wraps: Teriyaki chicken with pineapple with romaine and red onions. Roast beef and arugala with roasted red peppers and honey mustard. Smoked turkey and pears with brie, romaine, red onions and Dijon mustard. Brie and mesculin with pears and white wine honey mustard. Grilled chicken and smoked mozzarella with red peppers and melted mozzarella. There are great personal pizzas from goat cheese and peppers to backyard with smoked mozzarella and gouda, barbecue sauce and barbeque chicken, cilantro and red onion. And heroes too.

The Courtyard is a great find for this time of year.

THE BOTTOM LINE

In old Great Neck, dining inside overlooking court yard or out. Perfect for summer. Fine "Dinner at Dusk" menu. Italian American cuisine. Full menu or personal pizzas, heroes at lunch.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Buffalo Mozzarella...$9.00

Smoked Salmon...$9.00

Greens & Pear Salad .. $8.00

Court Yard Special Salad (fresh

mozzarella, roasted pepper with

artichoke hearts & mush

rooms)...$8.00

Chicken Romano...$14.00

Veal Sorrento ...$16.00

Grilled Salmon...$17.00

Rigatoni a la Campagnola...$13.00

Tiramisu...$4.50

Napoleon Cake.-$4.50

Cuisine: Italian

Setting: Overlooks courtyard

Service: Very nice

Hours: L & D, 6 days. Closed Mon.

Reservations: Yes

parking: Lot, rear

Dress: Neat casual

Credit cards: Master, Amex, Visa

Children: Own menu

Private parties: To 25

Smoking: None

Noise level: Moderate

Handicapped access: Yes

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