Restaurants & Bars 3

Italian finds in Long Island

longislandsbest | Dec 16, 200910:48 AM

To many, the thought of going to Olive Garden for Italian food seems senseless when you consider the number of outstanding Italian restaurants we have on Long Island. Three recent visits made us a convert…there is a time and place for the Olive Garden, and one of the times is when they have their “Never Ending Pasta Bowl.” The concept is simple, you can try as many different pastas as you want mixed with 6 different sauces. Lot’s of combinations to consider. Smart diners know that you shouldn’t load up on the unlimited salad bowl and bread but its hard to turn away from these tasty treats. For our last visit, we brought with us 8 healthy, hungry members of the Roslyn Marching Band. They were eager and boastful, in the end, they couldn’t continue beyond the third pasta bowl. To us pasta is pasta, regardless of the shape, but we do lean towards the penne, fettuccine and orecchiette because they have more bulk. The key really is the sauce, and these were standouts. A Creamy Parmesan Florentine with the penne was the top of the pops, and the richness of the creamy sauce was irresistible. Second on our hits lists was the Roasted Portobello Pomodoro, a lush marinara sauce. Five Cheese Marinara was another home run. Olive Garden also gives you the opportunity to add some meat to the heat . You can get unlimited Italian sausages or meatballs for only $1.95 extra. The sausage is big and thick, very tasty. The meatballs are a major flop. They look gray, begging the question, “Are they made from meat?” They’re very smooth, taste like store bought canned meatballs and 6 of our 8 band members either didn’t finish theirs or didn’t re-order. They all had the same comment, “Doesn’t taste like meat.” Desserts are a good bet, especially the Zeppoli or the Black Tie Mousse Cake. Olive Garden is a very pleasant place, well designed and comfortable. The staff is very efficient and sometimes over the top in their enthusiasm.

Spasso Pizza in Westbury is a true treasure. In an Island awash in red sauce, sometimes, great comfort food is found in an unlikely place.
Spasso looks like a thousand other pizzerias on Long Island, tucked in the corner of a non-descript strip shopping center. That’s where the similarity comes to an end.
Spasso has more than 30 pasta dishes, each a delicious take on classic Italian cooking. Our favorite is the Rigatoni Carbonara, a lush pasta in a white cream sauce with onions, cheese, and bacon. Big chunks of bacon, no skimping here. The sauce is rich, thick, and delicious. And they don’t go overboard with the onions like many places.
You could probably throw a dart at the menu and you still would come up with a good meal. Fettuccine Alfredo is top notch, the Rigatoni Bolognese makes the taste buds dance, and the Penne Antonio is a great mix of broccoli, zucchini, sun dried tomatoes, olives and mushrooms sautéed with garlic, virgin olive oil and artichokes. A health addicts delight…oh yeah, right.
Every Monday is pasta day, and take out orders are only $8.95 and come with salad, bread, garlic knots (excellent) and your choice of rice pudding or chocolate pudding (Take the rice, it’s dense).
Some standouts from the menu include Veal Cutlet Parmigiana, tender and tasty, Shrimp Fra Diavolo and Lasagna de Casa.
Thursday is Chicken Day and that’s when Spasso pulls out all stops. Chicken Parmigiana is enough to feed a small regiment, and the Chicken Alla Bella Malina is a knockout. This is chicken sautéed with mushrooms, and spinach, covered with Mozzarella cheese. They have a dozen different selections, and all can be had for only $10.95 for takeout and comes with the same extras as on Pasta Monday.
O.K. We’ve overloaded on carbs, that’s for sure, but how does Spasso do on the pizza test? A big fat A, that’s how. They have nearly two dozen selections. How about a little lasagna pizza to get started? Or maybe you’re in the mood for something light; the Hawaiian Pie with Pineapple and Ham is a winner. Wish you were in Philadelphia? Then the Philly Cheese Steak Pizza is for you. Delicious. And, my personal favorite, and the reason I haven’t tried most of the other pies, is the Buffalo Wing Pizza, a jumbo slice with fried chicken pieces (very tender), on top of blue cheese dressing and mozzarella cheese. You can also have spicy by request. This will set you back a meager $3.95 and easily is big enough for two.
The owners and staff at Spasso are very cordial, and will go out of their way to make your order special to your liking. Garlic bread and knots are both the real deal. Appetizer portions are large and you’re warned you may not have room for the rest of the meal if you indulge too soon.
My suggestion is order a few different things and be prepared to bring them home and feast for days to come.
Spasso is celebrating their 50th year so they must be doing something right!

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