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.
Inspired by their travels throughout Italy and the Mediterranean, the Ferrara and Gironta families decided to bring a bit of the Old World home by opening Serata—a restaurant committed to Italian cuisine made using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. Housemade marinara sauce and imported prosciutto evoke the flavors of Italy, but the chefs depart from tradition by introducing their own modern spins on time-honored classics.
Much like the menu, the decor toes the line between traditional and contemporary. The dining room resembles an Italian cottage, surrounding diners with brickwork arches and faux Tuscan plaster walls. Simple wooden tables and wrought-iron chandeliers add to this rustic charm, but the restaurant's spirit changes drastically after the sun sets.
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.
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).
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