247-63 Jericho Turnpike, Bellerose
Credit Cards: yes
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11 a.m. -10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.,
Saturday noon-11 p.m., Sunday noon-10 p.m.
BY LYNN EDMONDS
As the temperature drops and night falls earlier, Trattoria Lucia’s warmly-lit dining room, full of families, couples and pairs of friends, glows even more invitingly through their large windows.
The Italian restaurant is known for their generous portions and hearty dishes – combined with reasonable prices. Yet even as it trades in rich flavors like the creamy taste of mozzarella, the salty and tangy bite of fresh dried imported sausage, salt and fat don’t run the show. Rather they enhance a unified whole, made fragrant with herbs, tart with tomatoes, complex and meaty through mushrooms.
To start, eggplant rollatini is a delicious, battered eggplant wrapped around a center of creamy, mild cheese. That goes perfectly with the vegetarian stuffed mushroom, a cute, button-shaped mushroom layered with cheese and coated with breadcrumbs. Try that with the bread-crumb encrusted clams.
For those that love fried calamari, Trattoria Lucia’s offers the best version of the dish, with fresh, hot battered squid and a chunky, tangy tomato sauce that will keep you dipping. They also have a buffalo sauce, for those that like to put a little American in their Italian.
Seafood is a highlight on the menu, as well as meats, with Chef Ivan and co-owner Joseph Villanti themselves selecting the fish, meat and produce. The time he has taken shows. The Red Snapper Francese, doused in lemon wine butter sauce, could never achieve the texture and sweet smell that it has, if it wasn’t totally fresh. Despite the fish’s perfection, however, one can be forgiven for thinking of it primarily as a conduit to the most mouth-watering of sauces.
Accompanying the fish is the tubular potato croquet. It’s satisfyingly crunchy on the outside and with piping hot, delicious mashed potato on the inside.
Among the carnivorous options, the seared, slow-cooked pork shank is a favorite. Cooked for over 10 hours, the meat falls off the bone.
But of course at an Italian restaurant, one can’t forget the pastas. Black pasta dyed with squid ink and cheese-filled Fioretti are homemade and just a little al dente. The gnocchi is the best I’ve ever had.
For dessert, chocolate fiends and peanut butter lovers can battle it out over which family recipe is better, the flourless chocolate cake or the peanut butter pie. Those who choose the flourless chocolate cake will be the correct ones, of course.
To anyone perusing the extensive menu, the courteous and attentive wait staff is quick to say “no rush on my part,” and give the patron a sense of ease, while also managing to be right there as soon as the customer has made up his or her mind.
One option for the early bird is the three-course prix fixe, which is $30 and includes a cocktail, as well as soup or salad, and entree, and dessert with coffee or tea. For those that dine later, or don’t care for alcohol, a four-course menu is available all day for the same price, without the cocktail.
On Thursday and Friday nights, “Paint Nite” is an option for those looking to mix food, drink and fun. While enjoying cocktails or wine from the full service bar – and an appetizer if one so chooses – guests are instructed how to paint a scene. While the instruction helps participants to create satisfyingly accurate renderings of the model painting, it’s still all about letting lose. Nobody has to stick with prescriptions.
Trattoria Lucia also delivers within 5 miles, caters events and hosts parties in their private dining room.
If Bellerose is out of the way, diners can also try sister restaurant Bella Lena in Ridgewood.