Begin your trip down the meatball-lined sidewalks of Ciao Baby with a look at the menu of classic Italian eats. For antipasti, roll a homemade Sicilian rice ball filled with ground meat, peas, and plum-tomato sauce ($14.95) into your jaws. Lunch light with a member of the Wrap Pack, such as the Salsiccia Sammy (Italian sausage, tri-color peppers, and Vidalia onions sautéed in white wine and topped with mozzarella, $10.95), or lend some evening gravitas to your appetite with a dignified order for Nonna's Old World Meat Platter (freshly made meatballs, hot or sweet sausage, and San Marzano tomato sauce atop macaroni; half $23.95, whole $33.95).
Waves of heat radiate from an open oven door as a chef pulls out a Sicilian pizza baked to a golden finish, then slides in a fresh crust topped with eggplant, roasted peppers, and house-made mozzarella cheese. Other chefs prep for the dinner rush, cutting up homemade rigatoni noodles to later douse with a tomato or beef bolognese cream sauce. Classic Italian dishes can be prepared family style, in which heaps of pasta are divided among siblings according to their age or skill at dogsled racing. Emilio’s catering service also brings platters of pasta, salad, and sandwiches to parties of all sizes.
In the kitchens of Torcellos Restaurant, cooks splash wine sauces over seafood, veal, and dishes from an extensive menu of Italian favorites. As traditional or whole-wheat pastas wind around forks, Italian entrees of veal, chicken, and fish fillet sauté in savory wine sauces. Patrons can promote sharing with a catering package, which offers dinner for up to 60 people or a late-night snack for one competitive eating champion.
The chefs at Zaro's Café import the Mediterranean flavors of Greece and Italy onto plates brimming with Old World flavor. After perusing the extensive menu, dish archaeologists can excavate the Greek moussaka's layers of eggplant, potato, and ground beef doused in a béchamel sauce ($15.50), or an assortment of pastas that includes penne salmon, tossed with asparagus drenched in a roasted-pepper pink sauce ($15.95). Five models of tzatziki-topped gyros putt-putt toward mouths, from traditional to a hot, whole-wheat vegetarian gyro, stuffed with grilled asparagus, zucchini, white onion, and lettuce ($9.25). Neapolitan and square Sicilian pizza pies are available whole or by the slice, and calzones, rolls, and stromboli transport dough-wrapped flavor to mouths directly from the Boot. Or stamp culinary passports with Italian entrees, with classic options including veal marsala—veal medallions as tender as constructive criticism—sautéed with marsala wine and fresh mushrooms ($18.95).
Pomodorino Ristorante Italiano strives to emulate an Old-World trattoria, serving a menu of iconic Italian favorites in an atmosphere where, according to the Long-Islander, “everyone is treated as a friend and regulars are treated like family.” The chefs capture this homey vibe in cuisine form by hand-rolling meatballs, simmering pots of tomato sauce from scratch, and crowning entrees with scraps of imported parmesan cheese. They also fire up a wood-burning brick oven to bake pizzas to a golden crisp and transform lasagnas into melty, cheese-laden meals.
The dining room embraces a similarly casual approach with red-checkered tablecloths and a ceiling-mounted trellis, which supports an intricate web of vines and strings of twinkling lights. The bar area’s shelving extends almost to the ceiling. Bartenders surmount the altitude obstacle by climbing a sliding librarian’s ladder to retrieve the treasures that line the topmost shelves: bottles of spirits and anything Paul Bunyan happened to drop when he was in the restaurant.
A Long Island native born into an Italian American family, Joseph Balbo knew early on that he wanted to devote his life to cooking. He honed his skills at the Italian Culinary Institute in Calabria, learning to combine traditional, Old World sensibilities with a New World spirit of innovation. Now manning the stovetops at Porto Vivo, which the New York Times called ?Huntington?s latest hot spot,? in 2009, Chef Balbo runs a kitchen that has served numerous celebrities, including Serena Williams, celebrity chef Todd English, and Billy Joel.
The menu brims with familiar yet refined Italian staples, such as lobster ravioli with shaved black truffle and parmesan-crusted veal milanese. The chefs also demonstrate their creativity by glazing pan-seared Alaskan halibut with a yuzu vinaigrette and frying grappa-soaked grapes. To accompany this range of flavors, the restaurant also features an extensive wine list, which earned Wine Spectator?s Award of Excellence. The selection emphasizes Italian producers, but it also boasts an array of bottles sourced elsewhere, including rare Californian wines as well as a first-growth bordeaux.
In many ways, the decor dovetails with the cuisine in its elegance and bringing together of disparate yet complementary elements. The clean, modern space features multiple levels, with high ceilings, taupe walls, leather booths, rich wood accents, and exposed brick.