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October 8, 2011

–Compiled by Peter M. Gianotti and Joan Reminick

Type: Italian Special features: Happy hour, Outdoor Seating, Lunch Price range: $$$ (Expensive) Description:

Set for either a meal or a spot for relaxing, both the dining room and the bar do steady business. The taproom crowd tends to serve an after-work crowd, catering to thirsty patrons with a weeknight happy hour from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. However, hungry guests do very nicely as well, as La Tavola offers a menu of rustic Italian fare that can open with either a meat or cheese plate (or a combination for $22). Appetizers include salads, soups and antipasti—with bites like arancini rice balls, mozzarella and bruschetta, while wood-fired pizzas are another option for lighter meals. Entrées do come in full meal fashion though, with pasta plates and major meats like chicken, veal, beef and seafood ready to order under various sauces and dressings.

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Squid Row: 11 Great Calamari Creations

Published: August 2, 2011 3:54 PM
By PETER M. GIANOTTI, ERICA MARCUS and JOAN REMINICK. peter.gianotti@newsday.com, erica.marcus@newsday.com, joan.reminick@newsday.com

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How many times have you spotted fried calamari on a menu in Nassau or Suffolk? Yes, from Great Neck to Montauk, Long Island is squid row.

The 10-limbed star of the cephalopod wing of the mollusk clan comes in countless sizes, from 1 inch onward. The strange-looking but very tasty catch is an essential part of local fare. They swim into cuisines Mediterranean and Asian, Latin and American. They’re served deep-fried and stir-fried, seared and stuffed, baked and boiled, grilled and uncooked.

183 W. Main St., Sayville
631-750-6900, latavolasayville.com

THE CATCH Fried calamari, crunchy enough outside and very tender within, is an appetizer at this delightful, country-style Italian restaurant. Soaked in milk, coated with Wondra flour, fried in canola oil. Paired with spicy marinara sauce and, even better, a lemon-and-horseradish spin on sauce rémoulade.


La Tavola

Originally published: April 14, 2010 11:01 AM
By PETER M. GIANOTTI peter.gianotti@newsday.com

La Tavola in Sayville delivers a taste of authenticity.

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Photo credit: Newsday / Robert Mecea | The Gnocchi Bolognese dish is seen on a table in the La Tavola restaurant in Sayville. (Oct. 23, 2008)

La Tavola sets a grand table. Make that tables: hand-built from antique boards, rustic and mismatched, more distressed than the economy.

The warm, country trattoria fills them with full-flavored food, affordably priced. The new spot with old ways is an offspring of the Ruvo restaurants in Greenlawn and Port Jefferson, owned by the four DeNicola brothers. Their latest, homey destination is decorated with colorful, stylized paper-cut images by Douglas DeNicola and defined by an affection for family traditions, including their father’s hand-carved art. La Tavola delivers a taste of authenticity.


Executive chef Joseph DeNicola excels with Italianate small bites. Try crudo of yellowfin tuna with mint-chile oil or fluke with terrific tomato confit flecked with raisins and pine nuts; crostini with a spread of sweet pea, mascarpone and mint, finished with prosciutto, or white-bean puree mixed with pancetta and rosemary. His antipasti turn addictive with crunchy, mellow arancini, Ping-Pong-size rice balls filled with fennel sausage and provolone; and a delectable burrata Caprese for two, the mozzarella-and-cream cheese-within-cheese set on paper-thin slices of pear, accented with prosciutto and sage. Complement these with a salad of fennel, orange, pignoli, basil and ricotta salata. Then consider puffy potato gnocchi in a lush Bolognese sauce; or orecchiette tossed with housemade sausage, broccoli rabe, hot peppers, garlic and olive oil. Fine main courses range from the splashy Montauk striped bass paired with braised fennel and tomato-red pepper aioli to confit of duck leg with delicious braised lentils; grilled pork tenderloin with sweet apple-vin santo chutney to elemental chicken scarpariello and chicken Parmigiana. Eclectic desserts: apple brown Betty, vanilla panna cotta, chocolate-hazelnut tart, gelati, biscotti.


Routine pizzas with good, diverting toppings; so-so fried artichokes with better roasted garlic aioli; cannoli, more tangy than sweet.


Bring friends, family, an appetite


Dining | Sayville
Table of Treats Prepared by Family
Phil Marino for The New York Times

COZY Above, the dining room at La Tavola, and left, the exterior.

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LA TAVOLA, which opened in Sayville in late September, translates to “the table” — not just any table but the kitchen table that is at the center of many Italian-American families.

The family here is the DeNicolas. Four brothers — Joseph, Leo, Douglas and James DeNicola — own the new restaurant and are involved in its operation. The DeNicolas also own Ruvo of Greenlawn, which opened in November 2001, and Ruvo of Port Jefferson, which dates to March 2006.

At La Tavola, Joseph DeNicola, 41, is the chef; Leo, 46, runs the front of the house. Douglas, 44, created the cut-paper artwork on the walls, depicting grapes, a lemon, eggplant, artichoke and tomato. Tables were made by James, 53, Leo and Joseph from antique wood boards. Antique, mismatched chairs and a long brown leather banquette add to the cozy look. The symbol of the restaurant, a woodcut of a farm scene, was created by the brothers’ late father, also James, in the 1960s.

La Tavola is one of those warm Italian places that Long Islanders love, with a sweet, helpful staff that reflects the welcoming attitude of the owners. Servers were happy to check on ingredients with the kitchen, kept water glasses and bread baskets full and delivered dishes to the right person every time.

The food is rib-sticking, delicious and moderately priced. The most expensive entree on the menu is $25. Even a special veal chop was only $27.

We started the meal with a wood-fired pizza topped with sweet and spicy sausage, tomato, red onion, roasted red peppers and mozzarella. The treat featured a blistered, cracker-thin crust. Other openers that delighted were the classic Caesar salad with white anchovies and a shaved fennel-orange salad garnished with pine nuts, a chiffonade of basil and thin slices of ricotta salata in an orange vinaigrette.

We also liked the crisp, breaded, long-stemmed artichokes paired with a roasted garlic aioli and the tender rings of fried calamari, which arrived with wedges of lemon, a spicy marinara and a tangy horseradish rémoulade. Two also-rans were overly chewy baked clams and crostini topped with an eggplant purée. The toasts became soggy from their topping.

The best entree was a special of roasted opah, a white, firm-fleshed fish. The thick fillet sat atop pancetta hash browns and halved grape tomatoes in a shallot-caper vinaigrette. Also terrific were five seared diver scallops over a creamy roasted butternut squash risotto sparked by pancetta.

The DeNicola family recipe for chicken scarpariello is a jewel, featuring juicy organic chicken on the bone, house-made sausage, red peppers, roasted potatoes, oregano and red wine vinegar. We also raved about the grilled tenderloin of pork accompanied by an apple-vin santo chutney, crunchy haricots verts and mashed potatoes.

I feared for the linguine with clams when I noticed the clams were the large kind used in the baked clam appetizer and not the baby ones I prefer. But these were tender, not overcooked, and mingled with chopped fresh tomato, cubes of zucchini, fresh herbs and lots of minced pancetta for a flavor-packed dish. Making the grade, too, were gnocchi in a creamy Bolognese sauce.

At dessert time, go for the chocolate mousse cake, a huge wedge of mousse with a few chocolate cookie crumbs forming a thin crust. Equally good was the big square of warm banana bread pudding laced with chocolate sauce and slices of banana and crowned with house-made bananas Foster ice cream.

All the gelati and sorbetti are made in house. We loved the creamy caramel gelato and the tangy lemon sorbetto garnished with grated lemon zest. Vanilla bean-flecked panna cotta was silken and was served with a warm mixed berry coulis flavored with moscato. The New York-style cheesecake had a cold Grand Marnier strawberry coulis garnish, but, alas, the cake itself could have been creamier.

La Tavola Trattoria
(631) 750-6900


THE SPACE Warm, inviting trattoria with homey touches. Wheelchair accessible.

THE CROWD Casual couples and small groups of friends. Few children.

THE BAR A separate room with a copper-topped bar and a few high tables. List of 57 wines by the bottle ($20 to $95, with lots of selections in the $20s), focusing on Italy and Long Island, and 11 by the glass ($7 to $9).

THE BILL Dinner entrees, $16 (rigatoni and veal meatballs) to $27 (veal chop special). Dinner menu served at lunch, as well as salads ($8 to $12), sandwiches ($8 to $14) and a three-course prix fixe menu for $18. American Express, Visa and MasterCard are accepted.

WHAT WE LIKE Sausage pizza, fried calamari, fried artichokes, Caesar salad, fennel-orange salad, linguine with clams, gnocchi, chicken scarpariello, scallops, pork tenderloin, roasted opah, chocolate mousse cake, banana bread pudding, panna cotta, housemade sorbetti and gelati.

IF YOU GO Open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, till 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. Reservations recommended.

Reviewed Nov. 23, 2008