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Poppin’ Fresh—So New, We Can’t Review

280 Hillside Ave., Williston Park

Thai food fans have been doing drive-bys, hungrily stalking this brand-new location, monitoring construction progress ever since the sign first went up last winter. If it’s comparable to the storied Queens original, which expanded from a tiny five-table takeout counter catering to a mostly local Thai clientele to a sprawling destination that garners rapturous raves and visitors from around the world, there will be no more drives to Woodside for us. All the clatter about this legend of lemongrass is about real Thai food, not the dumbed-down version you’re used to. Forget Pad Thai and go for Gai-Kua Noodles. Try BBQ Pork or Catfish and Mango Salad, or Duck Noodle Soup, or, or, or….

Duck Noodle Soup at SriPraPhai


Anna Bella’s Café
348 Great Neck Rd., Great Neck

On this unlikely stretch of Great Neck Road, where auto body shops dominate, comes this casual café, as if transported whole from a side street in Roma. Or Pompei, where owner Michael Franco’s family had a café for many years. Sure, they have a wood-fired brick oven (that will compete with Michaelangelo’s thin crust pizza up the block), but this brick oven is made with volcanic rock imported from Italy, and it holds heat like no other. Franco claims that it heats to 750 degrees and cooks pizzas in 45 seconds. Fresh mozzarella and sauce are employed throughout the menu of paninis and chopped salads that augment the pizza. But exotic Italian breakfast dishes will have you rethinking your morning meal. Uova a la Purgatorio consists of poached eggs in tomato sauce, Italian French Toast (can that be?) comes up fried panetone fruitcake with syrup and butter and there’s also Italian Home Fries. Franco and his chef Eddie Francou, who cooked at Mad 28 in Manhattan, are planning to put the unusual oven to other uses—roasting meats and seafood. Plans are for a bakery next door in the coming months, and they also have a brick oven on wheels that can be rolled into your backyard for outrageous al fresco catering possibilities.

Sage Bistro Moderne
7955 Jericho Tpke., Woodbury
Woodbury Village Shopping Center

Where Café Diane vacated, this sibling of the Bellmore original and Brasserie Persil cooks something-for-everyone French for suburban tastes. Nothing too froufrou—like the Bistro Cassis empire where the owners spent time—but classics like Coq au Vin, Duck l’Orange and Trout Almondine are joined by more contemporary fare including Pignoli Nut Crusted Tuna and a flatbread appetizer covered with pear and Rogueford cheese, along with easy options like steak frites, mussels and even Mac ‘n Cheese.

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