Piccola Bussola Ristorante is one of three restaurants owned and operated by the Lubrano family. According to John Lubrano, his father opened his first restaurant 30 years ago, naming it "La Bussola," which means compass in Italian. The name was a nod to his father's belief that customers might need some directional assistance in order to find the restaurant, tucked away as it was in downtown Glen Cove.
The family opened their Huntington restaurant, Piccola Bussola in 1994, and quickly established a reputation for fine Neapolitan cuisine in this area. Piccola Bussola means "small compass," but you can take my word for it that the food is so good that it draws customers like a magnet. Piccola Bussola has a steady clientele, and once you go there, you'll understand why. The couple seated behind us, who were enjoying themselves immensely, told us that they dine there twice a week.
The interior resonates with a welcoming old world charm thanks to its honey-toned walls, wood wainscoting, soft lighting, and touches of stained glass. The food is served family-style on large platters by a knowledgeable and experienced staff who aim to please and have been with the restaurant for years.
I was immediately impressed by bruschetta, which we ordered as an appetizer. Hefty slices of crisp garlic bread were the perfect vessels for chopped tomato and red onion, whose freshness and flavor were enhanced by fresh basil and a blend of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
According to Lubrano, the stuffed artichokes, filled with a mixture of bread crumbs, olives, capers, anchovies and garlic, are very popular appetizers as are the baked clams and fried calamari.
The variety of salads is a tribute to the chef's creativity. On my next visit I would try the roasted beet salad or the arugula salad, which pairs the aromatic green with pears, walnuts and shaved parmesan. The Caesar and combination salads are also quite popular, Lubrano indicated.
In terms of pasta entrées, there were so many tempting options that it was difficult to make a choice. We were delighted with the Tortellini Alfredo prepared perfectly al dente. Peas and large pieces of prosciutto added interest and texture to the delicious sauce.
Penne Pasquale, which Lubrano said is named for his father, features the cylinder-shaped pasta, peas, mushrooms, asparagus, and pancetta in a tomato sauce touched with cream, and is also a restaurant favorite.
Whole wheat and gluten-free pasta are available.
The Veal Marsala (tender scallopini and mushrooms, adrift in a rich Marsala wine) was excellent. If you are looking for pizzazz, the Veal Sorrentino (veal layered with eggplant, prosciutto and melted mozzarella) will ignite your taste buds. For steak lovers, there's Steak Pizzaiola ( grilled Black Angus in a white wine tomato sauce) and Steak Siciliano (grilled Black Angus topped with crushed garlic and bread crumbs).
My favorite dish of the evening was Chicken Francese, a veritable feast of succulent sautéed breast of chicken in a white wine, lemon, and butter sauce. The chicken was so tender that you could cut it with a fork, with just the right amount of lemon to give the dish a mouthwatering tang. This is hands down the best Chicken Francese that I have ever tasted.
In terms of seafood, there's a palate-pleasing plethora of shrimp, mussel, clam and calamari dishes and you can even have lobster. Each week the menu alternates between different varieties of fish, including red snapper, Chilean sea bass and branzini, Lubrano said. Grilled octopus is so popular that it is always available.
Save room for dessert because Piccola Bussola serves up some extraordinary Italian delicacies. One new entry is their Limoncello Cake which features mascarpone cheese and lime zest topped with crushed white chocolate.
The cannoli that we ordered was a real showstopper. Overflowing with filling and drizzled with caramel, the artful presentation included blueberries and sliced strawberries. It tasted as delicious as it looked.
In terms of prices, one must keep in mind that each dish, even the appetizers, is made to serve two. Appetizers range in price from $8.95 for garlic bread with mozzarella to $19.95 for fried calamari. Salads range from $12.95 for the Caesar salad to $19.95 for the seafood salad. In terms of pasta, there are a number of dishes that two can enjoy for $18.95.
The seafood dishes range in price from $19.95 for Mussels Luciana to $24.95 for Shrimp Diavolo. Most chicken dishes fall into the $19.95 to $22.95 range. The prices for the meat dishes start at $24.95 for Veal Parmigiana or Pizzaiola, and reach a high of $52.95 for the veal chop or the steak dishes.
After eating at Piccola Bussola you just might wish that you could cook as well as Chef Marco, and happily, every few months, guests have the unique opportunity observe a cooking demonstration, and enjoy dinner as well.
Piccola Bussola is open Monday through Thursday from noon to 9:30 pm, Friday, noon to 10 pm, Saturday, 2 to 10:30 pm and Sunday from 2 to 9:30 pm.
To preview the menu, go to piccolabussolarestaurant.com. To inquire about upcoming cooking demonstrations, call the restaurant.
970 W. Jericho Turnpike