Italy in Islip
Francesco Torre, in full chef whites, stands outside of the open kitchen at Verace in Islip where he is executive chef, commanding his staff, looking like the captain of a cruise ship. The Tuscan-born Torre is hands-on, worrying and inspecting every plate as it appears, personally pacing every order from kitchen to table. He is one of the many attractions at this beautiful entertainment of a restaurant, the newest from the folks at the Bohlsen Group whose flagship, Teller’s, is right next door. They’ve spared no expense inside or out, constructing an exquisite space, understanding, as with all their properties, the concept of restaurant as modern theater.
Pass down the cobblestone alleyway between the two restaurants and enter at the rear where there’s a large comfortable patio with outdoor fireplace. Go through the open kitchen into the high-design yet casual main seating area, under the patterned high dome and balcony area. The classicism of the brick exterior fits nicely next to Teller’s pillared limestone bank building.
Verace means “truthful” and they’ve branded themselves a “true Italian” restaurant, knowing this will resound with the many Long Islanders who have experienced Italy.
This is no red-sauce pizza and pasta joint. The menu encourages multi-course dining—the “when in Rome…” way. Portions and prices are kept to a reasonable level. Service is well-trained and managers are everywhere.
They make a statement immediately with the lack of the gratis bread basket. But you can order exceptional Grilled Bread with Tomato Fig Marmalade and Ricotta ($4) from the Sfizi or “little bites” section of the menu. We also love Prosciutto and Provolone Crisps ($4) turned into twists. Another cheesy wonder is the Asiago Sformato ($8), a muffin with creamy cheese within, covered with crisp and sautéed onion. A Caesar salad made with Baby Romaine Hearts ($7) is also very good. Our next course is pasta, and both the Tuscan Bolognese with Maltagliati Pasta ($13)—made with shredded braised short rib and pork in a rich reduction—and the Gnocci with Morel Mushrooms and Pancetta ($12) are rich and exceptional.
From the Secondi section, Crispy Halibut ($18), a new addition to the menu, is very lightly battered, fried and wonderful, accompanied with roasted asparagus and garlic.
Grandma’s Chicken Parmigiana ($16), an oasis of a dish for those craving the familiar, is made with one breast lightly sauced with a thin layer of mozzarella, nothing special.
Housemade Chocolate Gelato is as rich and thick as icing and should not be missed, although I hear their takes on tiramisu and cannoli are creative.
We stopped in for their Wine Dinner ($40) on a Monday night and were dazzled with a first course of Vitel Tonne, made with veal and capers, then a Barolo Braised Beef Tenderloin and finally a trio of Piemontese cheeses all paired with wines from an Italian vineyard presented by the restaurant group’s sommelier, Paulo Villela. Villela was the last sommelier at Windows on the World (and had a day off on September 11!). Here, he had several kegs of wines tapped, one of which, an Iuli Barbera, was thoroughly enjoyable.
Nassau County restaurant-goers who rarely venture east of Huntington should put this on their itinerary. It’s closer than Italy.