Good Italian food starts with the sauce, and the Loccisano family have been perfecting theirs for years. As children, they'd gather at their nonna's home in Queens to help prepare her homemade tomato sauce. Each of the five kids would have his or her own task: cleaning bushels of tomatoes, adding handfuls of torn-up basil to the bubbling pot, or stirring it to the rhythm of "That's Amore." The fruits of their labor were then quickly slurped down at Sunday dinners.
The Loccisano family still makes that tomato sauce from scratch, and serves it over pastas, eggplant, and chicken?or in to-go jars?at Villaggio Ristorante. Beyond pastas and other hearty traditional dishes, the menu's other focus is pizza: baked atop white or whole-wheat crust in traditional brick ovens. Murals of rolling Tuscan vineyards set the scene inside the restaurant, sharing wall space with selected bottles from a long list of Italian wines in sculptural racks.
Bobby Carmosino's first memories of cooking and eating are all tied to his mother, whose love of crafting food won competitions held by Macy's and Bloomingdale's. As head chef at Sol?, he channels her influences into updated recipes such as the braciola?his father's favorite dish?a pork tenderloin wrapped around mozzarella, prosciutto, and spinach. The shrimp limoncello, one of his proudest creations, blends creamy risotto with tart citrus, demonstrating the fresh flavors that earned Sol?'s menu an overall rating of extraordinary from Zagat. Served in a comfortable, casual room with walls the color of buttercups, diners enjoy these made-from-scratch meals alongside fish specials so popular, many customers order them sight unseen, according to general manager Dennis Durdaller.
Cinelli's its menu of traditional Italian eats with an assortment of locally and organically grown ingredients. Broccoli rabe and melted fontina cheese ornament an appetizer of grilled beefsteak tomatoes ($7), piquing appetites and inspiring innovative Christmas-tree-decoration ideas. Chefs cover a plethora of 12-inch piada flatbreads with grilled chicken and fresh mozzarella ($8) or breaded and fried eggplant ($8). Black-tiger shrimp, string beans and sun-dried tomatoes tossed in garlic and oil brodetto slumber on a vegetable-infused risotto bed ($16), and 12-inch thin-crusted artisan pizzas topped with a variety of meats, cheeses, and veggies ($10+) nourish feasters in groups of two or three.
Elegance and comfort merge at Mio Posto, where white-linen-covered tables stand beneath a wall-mounted flat-screen TV. Here, the chefs whip up Italian specialties served family style, encouraging groups to share the heaping portions, or do what families do, and hoard them until it's time to read the will. The menu teems with traditional Italian entrees made from both housemade and imported pastas and sauces, including chicken marsala, veal sorrentino, and eggplant parmagiana. While dining, guests unwind to backdrop of live music on Wednesday–Fridays at both Hicksville and Oceanside locations.
The staff at D'Cocco's Restaurant & Pizzeria understands the value of a good family meal. Since 1988, they've maintained a place where local families do just that, with specialty pizzas and other tasty Italian favorites. Pies here stay interesting, with options that include everything from signature pepperoni to bacon-chicken-cheddar-ranch and the baked ziti pizza. Along with sharing family-style Italian meals and pizzas, D'Cocco's extends its commitment to the community by sponsoring Little League and softball teams and donating food to numerous local events.