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Dining Out: Watch for those almonds, they’re really garlic

Taverna

1401 Old Northern Blvd. Roslyn

516-484-8860

So near, yet so country! Turn into the driveway beside the landmark house and park your car along the curve when you got o Taverna in Roslyn. The two-story white house, surrounded by trees and greenery, is rather unimposing. But once inside you’ll feel like you’re miles away out on Long Island or in Connecticut. The high viaduct viewed behind the old Sycamore tree is an attractive sight with cars going to and fro.

Seen through the two-over-two window panes, the deck outside, encircled by white crisscross fencing, is inviting for drinking and dining on warm days. The ample dining room is light and bright with white tablecloths, china and sheer drapery wrapped with a green garland.

Another room on the left side is the lounge barroom with sofas and easy chairs. “Fine Italian cuisine,” they proclaim and I’ll go along with that. It’s deliciously a cut above the usual. Take my luncheon appetizer of sautéed domestic calamari served on a bed of mesclun with a white wine sauce. Here were perfect rings of ivory in a delectable sauce reposing on a bed of baby beet tops and greens. When did you sample that before?

“Pan seared trout with a lemon, rosemary and garlic sauce” it read. But that is only the half of it. The boned trout (with skin to keep the flavor in) is laid open with sliced almonds scattered over all. But they aren’t sliced almonds at all, rather they are cloves of garlic sliced lengthwise — the look and the crunch of almonds plus an indescribable something else. The trout was at one end of the platter with ziti with a splash of tomato sauce dead center. In between, fresh greens. Pretty and very good. Incidentally, a glass of cabernet marries well with the trout.

Even the pitcher of water has pizzazz. I christened it “sangria aqua.” Slices of lemon, orange, apple and lime were afloat adding elusive flavor to the picture-pretty pitcher. Dessert was a triumph for me — a chocolate raspberry delight. It was light, yet richly satisfying with the sharp raspberry, a perfect foil for the deep, dark chocolate layer. No crust, just raspberry atop chocolate and a sensibly sized fluff of cream along side.

Subsequently, I enjoyed a Sunday dinner as the sun set. A valet at the door takes your car. By the time you’ve settled in, and snacked on the oozing bruschetta and your hard roll, the head lights on the cars gliding along the overpass are becoming magical. The double sliding doors to the deck are open. So are the two-over-two windows. Campari and soda time — and it is good. Bitter Campari. When did it last taste that way?. It has been a long, long time.

Shall it be mussels in a pinot grigio sauce or grilled portobello mushrooms with gorgonzola cheese? “By all means the portobello”, my dining companion urged. By all means! It is a triumph, grilled gill side up, with gobs of melting gorgonzola.

Then I try the special of chicken with pesto sauce, cubed fresh tomatoes and shrimp. It is luscious — and definitely a creamy sauce, (another way to savor pesto) served on a platter with mesclun. Surprise! A long-stemmed, brined artichoke lies in repose atop the chicken breast along with the soft, warm new potato. It is an artichoke-lovers delight. Doggy bagged, and served barely warm atop a bed of chicory next day wearing the artichoke quarter, it is possibly even better the second time round.

The dessert? Cappuccino cake — a wafer thin, chocolate cake layer, topped with chocolate mousse, then frosted with cappuccino mousse. All very fine. Taverna’s cappuccino is dessert-like as well with a rich, spoonable top hat under a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.

I found Taverna’s Italian cuisine added a big dollop of creativity but never put form before taste. Trust me, for fine country dining you need go no further than Taverna in Roslyn on old Northern Boulevard, 25A. For details log on to www.tavernarestaurant.com.

The Bottom Line

Fine dining in a country setting. Italian close by. Italian cuisine. Bar and lounge. Dancing on Saturday night.

Chef’s Choice

Eggplant Romano (thin slices of Italian eggplant layered with fresh ricotta, melted mozzarella & a touch of marinara sauce)...$6

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms (with fresh gorgonzola cheese)...$7

Rigatoni Napolitano (chicken, fresh spinach, in a creamy marinara sauce)...$12

Penne Della Casa (shrimp, fresh asparagus, in a pink tomato sauce)...$16

Chicken Taverna (eggplant, zucchini, tomato, mozzarella, in a brown marinara sauce)...$14

Veal Barmmani (scallopine sautéed with portobello mushrooms, red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, in a Marsala wine sauce, sprinkled with fresh goat cheese)...$16

Pan-Seared Trout (lemon, rosemary & garlic sauce)...$15

Chocolate raspberry mousse cake...$6.50

Homemade cannoli...$5.50

Cuisine: Fine Italian

Setting: View of viaduct through trees. Bright, light white interior

Service: Attentive

Hours: L Mon -Fri. D 7 days

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Own country lot

Location: Main Street, Old Roslyn

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: All major. No Discover

Takeout: Yes

Off-premise catering: Yes

Private parties: To 100. Private room for 50

Noise level: Fri & Sat night, low

Smoking: Bar lounge

Music: And dancing Sat.

Outdoor dining: In season

Handicap access: Two steps

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