An Italian Wonderland
Luigi's Restaurant and Bar
265-21 Union Tpke., New Hyde Park
Hours: Lunch Mon-Sat 11 am to 4 pm; Dinner Mon-Thu 4-10 pm, Fri-Sat
4-11 pm, Sun 2-10 pm
Credit Cards: All Major
Stepping into this romantically-lit Italian haven in New Hyde Park, you are immediately transported to another world. Leather booths and chairs sit nestled along the walls; the subway tiles provide the feel of being in a Tuscan kitchen.
Menus are delivered, and that's when the fun starts. Your range of choices to kick off the experience swings from a selection of bruscetta, various imported cheeses and a diverse menu of locally-made salami. Pick one or a few - they all look fantastic.
We chose to begin with the fried calamari - a good judging dish to test the chef's mettle. This was by far the best-prepared version I've had in a long time. Served alongside a simple marinara and a red pepper aioli, the rings and tentacles were breaded and cooked to tender perfection. There was no chew that so many others seem unable to avoid - each piece was tender to the tooth.
We also select the Rucola salad, which was one of the most creative I've had in a while. Baby arugula is served atop Parma prosciutto and dotted with maple-dusted pecans and fresh goat cheese, all with a truffle honey and light balsamic vinaigrette. The blend of the peppery leaves, tangy cheese, salty ham, sweet and earthy honey and nutty pecans made for a symphony on the palate.
The Caesar salad was a classic, minus the anchovy, which is often mishandled; Luigi's has the wherewithal to avoid the potential faux pas altogether.
Moving on to our main dishes, we enjoyed a varied trio. My first guest had the Gnocchi with Parma, peas and gorgonzola dulce. The fluffy gnocchi pillows were as light as cotton balls and the creamy sauce gave a good punch in the back of the throat.
My second guest went with a classic - Chicken Parmesan, which was as you would imagine; the chicken was pounded thin and fried to perfection; the sauce was rich, sweet and flavorful; and the cheese was plentiful, browned just enough.
I ordered off the special menu for the night, and was served a massive veal chop, pounded thin on the bone, breaded, fried and served with prosciutto and cheese over a bed of spinach with a champagne reduction. Typically, I'm wary of cooked prosciutto - it loses its texture and turns bitter. This was not the case at Luigi's, and I fear they have reawakened my desire to seek cooked prosciutto, though I doubt I will find another on par with what was served atop my veal.
We closed out our meal with dessert, each more magnificent than the last. The lemon sorbet was sinful; the warm molten lava cooked in the wood-fired oven brought a new definition to a classic - and then there was the strawberry and banana Napoleon. The layers alternated between light sheets of dough and perfectly fresh fruit, all with a whipped pastry cream. Heaven.
I'll be going back - this coming Sunday as a matter of fact. You should make the trip as well.
—Brian M. Rafferty