Martoni's Ristorante Italiano opened two years ago at the site on East Jericho Turnpike which had been home to Fred's Restaurant for 54 years.
Martoni manager Tony Frascone and chef Norberto Avila, both formerly of Monica Bella, bring a total of 40 years of experience in Northern and Southern Italian cuisine to the table. The result is a menu which sparkles with creativity and variety while packing a few surprises.
For starters, there's a wealth of delicious traditional Italian appetizers and antipasto. We opted for the 'Calamara Fritti Arabiata' (fried calamari) served with a sweet and sour chili sauce. The contrasts inherent in this sauce make it the perfect accompaniment for the crispy calamari and I would make a trip to Martoni's for this dish alone.
The 'Baked Clams Oreganata' were also brimming with flavor. Unique items include fried lobster ravioli and crispy Long Island Duck Roll, which I would try on my next visit.
The menu features a potpourri of salads, and we found the goat cheese salad, which showcases mixed greens, candied walnuts, cranberries, and warm goat cheese, paired with a port wine dressing, to be outstanding.
In terms of entrees, I enjoyed the Linguini Fruti Dimare, a flavorful medley of scallops, shrimp, calamari, mussels and clams over linguini. The dish, prepared as per my request in a garlic and oil sauce as opposed to the light marinara sauce, was excellent.
From a host of chicken dishes, we selected the Chicken Rockefella. This Alfredo-style dish features two pan-sautéed tender chicken breasts enlivened by mascarpone cheese, a touch of cream, spinach, and a splash of Pernod over linguini. In addition to being delicious, the entrée portions are exceedingly generous, and the chances are good that you will be carting a little bit of Martoni's home to enjoy the next day.
According to Frascone, Lemon Sole Portofino is very popular as is Chicken Panko. The flaky texture of panko (Japanese bread crumbs) makes it ideal for a crispy, light crust, and the chicken, which is sautéed in a basil balsamic reduction and garnished with melted fontina cheese, is a veritable taste sensation.
Meat lovers are also in for quite a treat. Those who order filet mignon, veal chop, or rib eye steak can have these fine meats prepared in one of four ways. Purists may opt for Neapolitan style, whereby the meat is seasoned with fresh herbs and garlic, brushed with virgin olive oil, and grilled. Those seeking added punch may opt for 'au poivre,' seasoning with cracked peppercorn and presentation in a cognac demi-glace. 'Bobby Joe' pumps up the volume by pairing the flavorful demi-glace with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Finally, 'Béarnaise' style is French preparation at its best in a butter, white wine, tarragon, and shallot sauce.
One of the surprises of the evening was the Long Island duck entrée, which our waitress humorously described as "the quack of the town." The extra crispy, but succulent duck is prepared with a Grand Marnier orange glaze sporting sun-dried Turkish apricots for added pizzazz.
Variety also reigns when it comes to Martoni's homemade personal pizzas or 'pizzettes' which can be prepared country, Neapolitan, Rollatini or Martoni style. The latter features baby shrimp, chopped clams, roasted peppers, garlic and oil on Mozzarella and goat cheese.
Those looking to enhance their culinary experience even further can peruse the special martini menu, drink wine by the glass or bottle, or enjoy beer in chilled pint glasses.
And if you are looking for a sweet way to end your evening, you'll find that Martoni's can't be beat.
The tiramisu, tartufo, and the Italian cheesecake are all homemade. We enjoyed the Napoleon, a light but satisfying confection showcasing homemade vanilla custard cushioned between layers of wafer thin phyllo dough, artistically dressed with raspberry sauce.
The restaurant's two dining rooms and their stylish décor are in keeping with the sophisticated menu. We enjoyed the understated elegance of the sky lit back dining room with its beige walls, wainscoting, and banquette seating accented with touches of maroon.
In addition to the variety and originality reflected in the menu, Frascone believes that service sets this neighborhood gem apart.
"We truly want to please our customers," Frascone said of the "attention and appreciation" that he and his staff lavish on guests.
In addition to the happy hour (Fridays from 5 to 8 pm), there's live music on Friday and Saturday evenings. Theme nights include a 'lobster night' on Tuesdays where guests can enjoy a 1 ¼ lb. lobster, steamed or stuffed, and a house salad for $21.95. The first Wednesday of the month is 'psychic night,' where guests, whose spirits are willing, can have their fortunes read via a 'rune casting' or tarot card reading.
Appetizers range in price from $6.95 for garlic bread topped with Mozzarella cheese to $23.95 for hot antipasto for two. Salads range from $8.95 for the tomato and lettuce wedge to $11.95 for the Mozzarella Napoleon. Entrées range from $14.95 for Manicotti Ricotta or Eggplant Parmigiana to $32.95 for either filet mignon, veal chop or rib eye steak, with all price points in-between.
Martoni's is open for dinner from 4 to 10 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4 pm to 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 to 9 pm on Sundays. On Wednesdays the restaurant opens at noon for lunch and closes at 10 pm. There is a plethora of on-site parking and the restaurant is handicap-accessible. To preview the regular or prix fixe menus, visit martonisrestaurant.com.