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Dino’s: Italian fare carries Rat Pack feel in Great Neck

It's no wonder, though. Dino's is restaurant conglomerate CPNC's first restaurant in the burbs, but there are seven or eight others in Manhattan. Some are Italian like Dino's (Ciro's, Primavera and Allegro). One is the Brazil Grill, and Hudson Corner is a an American cafe.

That's only part of the reason why. They ran the previous Italian restaurant housed at that location, Pucinello, for six months before finalizing their game plan. What has evolved is a comfortable, small, super club ambiance punctuated with dangling, rectangular lamps with a red glow in the well-stocked massive bar and lounge, in the clubby main dining room and on the mezzanine that seats 40 comfortably. Coming soon: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis memorabilia, in house, ready for display.

Since the Rat Pack downed martinis, it's Dino's featured quaffable. In case you have any doubts, note the "O" in Dino's logo - an olive impaled on a pick. Sip one of the 22 (including Old Blue Eyes) martinis in the lounge or dine there late Wednesday to Saturday.

Item three for Dino's smooth start is Chef Michael, the corporate executive chef. He's been cooking with Dino's heir apparent, Fabio. Fabio was brought up in Queens but has cheffed in Tuscany for six years. He was also, among impressive credentials, sous chef for Italian cuisine at Manhattan's Tavern on the Green. Chef Michael has a lot to work with.

Dino's introduced family style dining, enabling you to taste a greater variety than if you ordered individually. And these days, everybody seems interested. Family style is an option for tables of four or more. Choose two appetizers, two salads, one pasta and two main courses for a set price of $22.95 or $19.95 per person (lunch $15.95 or $9.95 per person).

And you can have takeout, family style, for four or more at $15.95 per person. The entire last page of the takeout menu lists the options. Just choosing the ones and twos is a fun game. Take appetizers: Neapolitan rice balls, calamari fritti, mozzarella carozza, mussels Tuscan style or marinara, mozzarella carese, zucchini fritti, spinach and fontina casserole, bruschetta, risotto cakes, stuffed mushrooms, crispy polenta with portobello mushrooms, melanzana Sicilian and garlic bread with three cheeses.

We chose calamari (having heard that the calamari is fresh and the sauce homemade) and melanzana Sicilian (crispy eggplant with goat cheese and tomato served hot). It proved the Sicilians know how to do it. I had the spinach casserole at dinner and it was velvet bliss.

Each takeout item is labeled to help sort out the courses. Two six-inch sections of coarse-grained Italian bread are included, as is a small container of grated fresh Parmigiano.

Our two salads were terrific: chopped gorgonzola with chick peas and spinach salad with shaved red onion, calamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes and croutons. Each would make a great for luncheon.

Pastas go on and on - 16 of them, from cavatelli to four-cheese ravioli in pink sauce. Our wild mushroom risotto with spring peas and shaved parmesan had great flavor. Our gnocchi al pesto tidbits were small and creamy, topped with pignoli nuts.

Somehow we wound up with a whole roasted chicken, lemon, rosemary, sausage peppers and onions instead of chicken scarpariello. No complaints, but the simplicity of the scarpariello (along with our potato-crusted salmon) would have paired better with the complex vegetables. ($2 per person, per portion extra. Actually, the salads will suffice.)

Eggplant, melanzana al funghetto, was a winner for vegetarians. The escarole has sun-dried tomatoes.

There are no desserts on the family-style takeout, but at dinner I was tempted by Mrs. Brown's (related to the pastry chef) chocolate pound cake with vanilla ice cream. It is not a classic pound cake, but it is moist and it is wonderful.

The Bottom Line

Supper club ambiance restaurant and lounge. Homemade and traditional Italian cuisine. Prix fixe, family style dining for four or more for lunch, dinner or takeout. Spirited service. 20 martinis plus Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis memorabilia.

Dino's

31 South Middle Neck Road

Great Neck

516-482-5592

fax 516-482-5520

Chef's Choice

Calamari Fritti...$9.50

Lobster Risotto Cakes (caperberry remoulade)...$9.95

Dino's Stuffed Mushrooms...$5.95

Dino's Lobster Ravioli (with lobster cream)...$12.95

Roast Loin of Pork (balsamic roast pear reduction, garlic mashed potatoes, spinach)...$14.95

Potato Crusted Salmon...$13.95

Chicken Saltambucca (with prosciutto, provolone)...$11.95

Black and White Cannoli...$6

Mrs. Brown's Pound cake with Vanilla Ice Cream...$6

Cuisine: Homemade & traditional Italian. Family style dining 4 or more (L&D & takeout)

Setting: Supper club-like lounge & restaurant

Service: Spirited

Hours: L&D 7 days (Sat 11pm in lounge)

Reservations: Four or more

Parking: Street. Municipal lot

Location: One block S of LIRR station

Dress: Neat casual & business

Children: Accommodate. (Family style dinner $12.95)

Takeout: Yes (Family style for 4 or more)

Off-premises catering: Yes

Credit cards: Only American Express & cash

Private parties: To 100. Mezzanine seats 40

Noise level: Fri & Sat, moderate until 10 pm

Handicap access: Yes

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