The location, the corner of Bell Boulevard and the Horace Harding Expressway, has an amazingly green look about it. The double-door sized opening on Bell permits breezes to flow and dining outside under an umbrella. A gilt "Bayside Gardens" sign planted in a green mall is there over your left shoulder. All of which makes the viewing from your indoor table rather bucolic. Come evening, with more tables set up outdoors, it becomes a sidewalk cafe.
Indoors, Allana and Grace's Sicilian background is evident: from the puppets (very Sicilian) hanging on the wall to memorabilia arranged on dark wooden shelves.
We were captivated by the charm of the grouping of tall potted plants arranged inside the main door; a mammoth, well-designed, well-placed, brick pizza oven; the glass topped, crisp white clothed tables.
Sicily is known for its fine food. Allena is responsible for the pizza with a nice young chap to help out. He handles the baking operation with the flair of a dancer.
Grace, who cooked "for the entire family" since she was a little girl and uses all her mother's and grandmother's recipes, prepares the fine home cooking that we enjoyed. There's a different menu for each day of the week and it's repeated on a weekly basis. (Dinner isn't served on Monday - it must be Grace's day off.)
It was a warm summer evening, a night for sharing. My guest and I, after due deliberation, began dinner on a healthy note with a good sized salad - red and green lettuce, two colossal-sized green olives and a scattering of crisp croutons
Our appetizer was shrimp - but not the usual. There were six medium-sized ones, strung on a skewer, grilled until charred around the edges, presented on tossed greens. "What makes them so good?" I inquired. "They're our special," replied our waiter.
So, now you know as much as I do.
We did want to try a pizza, a small one, and settled on capricciosa with mozzarella, tomato, ham, mushrooms and artichokes with a thin, crisp crust. (There are also pizza bianca with mozzarella and ricotta; Napoli with mozzarella,tomatoes and capers; Salsiccia with mozzarella, tomatoes and sausage). Focaccia was another way to go - plain or stuffed - with olive oil and pecorino cheese; olive oil and anchovies; olive oil and sundried tomatoes; or even salami, ham and pecorino Romano.
And then came pasta for splitting - rolled lasagna stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach. Here's a twist that was treat. We wanted pepper, and my companion made the universal motion for a pepper grinder and our waiter sprinted over with a tall wooden one.
Bindi desserts are served in the finest reataurants and they are at the L'Italiano Trattoria. A multi-page dessert menu with enticing desserts in color is presented to each. Splitting stopped here. My guest chose the coconut shell filled with coconut gelato. I didn't taste since that's one I've tried a number of times - it's that good. I was most pleased with a Bindi coffee-and-cream creation served in a parfait glass which made me wonder. Do they return the glasses to Italy. Bindi is an import. My capuccino conclusion was excellent.
If we really wanted to go all out, L'Italiano Trattoria can accommodate. After primi piatti (the pasta) we could have ordered secondi piatti (an entree) such as a chicken cutlet, eggplant and proscuitto in a light red sauce topped with mozzarella; melanzane alla Parmigiana (breaded eggplant with mozzarella and tomato); or osso bucco ortolane (veal shank in chunky tomato sauce with vegetables and a touch of red wine).
On another day, it might be: pollo alla Parmigiana (breaded chicken cutlet with fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil; costeletta di vitello alla griglia (grilled veal chops served with your choice of pesto sauce or garlic, olive oil, lemon or orgeano sauce; or melanzane di ripiena (eggplant halved, scooped and filled with mozzarella, seasoned bread crumbs and eggplant.
L'Italiano Trattoria is a neighborhood gem with charm.
The Bottom Line
A neighborhood restaurant with charm. Sidewalk cafe in season. Italian/Scilian brick oven pizza to osso bucco. Homemade and Bindi desserts. Enthusiastic servers. Fine home cooking using mother's and grandma's recipes.
216-01 Horace Harding Expy
Mozzarella Fresca e Pomidori (fresh mozzarella & tomatoes w/ extra virgin olive oil, basil, sundried tomatoes)...$
Cold Antipasto (caponata, pomidori secchi, olives, proscuitto, formagi misti)...$
Osso Buco Orttolano (veal shank in chunky tomato sauce w/ vegetables & touch red wine)...$16
Melanzealla Parmigiana (breaded eggplant w/ fresh mozzarella & tomatoes)...$12.50
Sogio Ripiena (filet of sole stuffed w/ seasoned bread crumbs, sundried tomatoes & green olives)...$
Crostata di Miele (apple tart w/ fresh apples)...$
Sicilian Cheesecake (made with fresh ricotta)...$
Setting; Indoors & outdoors
Hours: L 7 days. D everyday but Mon
Location: Corner Bell & Horace Harding, N side
Credit Cards: Cash only
Children: Pizza, of course
Private parties: To 50
Off-Premise catering: Yes
Noiselevel: Fri & Sat, moderate
Music: Accordian & singer weekends
Handicap access: Yes
©2003 Community News Group
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