Our Town: Cipollini’s culinary magic right here in Nassau

Dr Tom Ferraro
Cipollini trattoria and bar. Photo by Tom Ferraro

Success has nothing to do with luck. Popularity is not an accident. When crowds gather and the throngs come running, it is because they know the difference between mediocrity and genius. The Oscar-winning film “Amadeus” highlighted this distinction. There are many Salieris but very few Mozarts.

So, if you are yearning to experience some genius in the form of a culinary experience, I would suggest you mosey on down to The Miracle Mile and enjoy lunch, brunch or dinner at Cipollini trattoria and bar.

Cipollini has been awarded the Five Star Diamond Award by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences and is on the short list of great restaurants on Long Island. There are reasons for this. Cipollini is billed as a casual Manhattan-style trattoria but that really does not do justice.

Let’s start with the look of the place, which was designed by world famous restaurant architect Peter Niemitz who created a space which blends al fresco dining on the porch with indoor trattoria dining by using glass paneled doors which open in the summer. This space allows for people watching of the highest order as you gaze upon the super wealthy of the North Shore. The women who you see strolling down the sidewalk are usually smiling, extremely attractive, well-dressed and carrying shopping bags filled with luxury items from Louis Vuitton, Fendi or Gucci. The men you see who are waiting for them in the parking lot are often seated in Lamborghinis and Ferraris or if things are not going well, they are sitting in BMWs, Mercedes, or Audis.

But the Gatsby-like atmosphere is only one part of the magic of the place. The service is prompt, attentive and not at all condescending. When you are in Italy and are confronted with a typical Italian waiter at a high-end restaurant, you had better have your wits about you or you will be mistreated. This is the opposite of how you feel at Cipollinis. As a subtle but real example, when they ask you the kind of water you prefer, and you say “regular,” you are not made to feel as if you made a faux pas.

Of course, the meal begins in earnest when the bread is placed on the table, and I will know exactly the kind of meal I am about to be served by the look, the smell, and the feel of the bread. If it looks good, smells fresh, feels warm and crunchy, you know the meal will be a good one. So indeed, the bread passed mustard.

I ordered lasagnette and my companion ordered pan-fried salmon with broccoli rabe served on cannellini beans and we shared a Caesar salad. The Caesar salad was the best I have ever tasted. Fresh, aromatic, crispy and the croutons were not too soft and not too hard (no easy thing.) At this point I was convinced I had arrived in heaven and was prompted to ask the waiter to please congratulate the chef.

Our main courses were perfect as well and when the waiter started grating the parmesan cheese, I was comfortable enough to let him keep on grating until my lasagnette was covered and I felt no guilt. That’s a first for that one. At that point I was convinced that “Cipollini trattoria and bar” was going to be my next column. And so it is.

The fabulousness of Cipollini’s is all due to the brothers Gillis and George Poll, who started out with a little restaurant in Williston Park called the Riverbay Seafood Bar and Grill, but over the years their restaurant empire has expanded with Bryant and Cooper, Majors Steakhouse, Toku Modern Asian, Bar Frites, Hendricks Tavern and The Bryant. Their effort is to offer a great atmosphere, warm hospitality, and quality food.

Well, they have done just that and more. I think it is exceedingly rare to find a place that delivers on the promise of great food in a lovely and interesting setting with warmth, relaxation, fun in the air and a touch of elegance. I can list on one hand the restaurants in New York that can do that. Let’s see there’s the River Café, OK… let me think, there was Tavern on the Green until they destroyed the look of it and then there was the 21 Club until Covid ended that magical place. Yes, don’t forget the Four Seasons Restaurant in Philadelphia and the Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel, but those two places are way out of state.

The great restaurants in the world have a certain magic to them that draws the throngs. These places exude excellence, with a warm and generous staff and with food to die for. Establishments like these create a dream that you are invited into. This happens in very few places. This occurs at the Ville D’Este on Lake Como or in nearly every restaurant in Capri, but entering a dream like this on Long Island is rare indeed. This is the dream of the golden life of wonder and beauty and magic.

So, if you are looking to enter a dream such as this, get on down to the Miracle Mile, walk up to Hector Tobar, the maitre d’, and tell him that Dr. Tom Ferraro sent you. And then get ready to smile.

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