Creative Ideas Reign At
By Brian Rafferty/ email@example.com
Along Jericho Turnpike in Greenlawn, a handful of restaurants
have been drawing customers to this small strip of eateries,
including Freds German restaurant, which was great at
one time but fell into a tailspin and was eventually closed
Replacing it is Martonis, which hopes to see the volume
and consistency of a great restaurant. If the summer that
owners Tony Frascone and John Martin have experienced since
their Memorial Day opening is any indication, they may be
well on their way.
Tony, who opened Monica Bella on Route 110, but sold off his
interest, has taken some of his signature dishes, his chef
and his personality to this spacious 110-seat spot that, on
a recent Wednesday night, saw a steady crowd flow into this
Seated in a corner, I got to watch the guests reactions
as they heard the specials and read through the menus. Two
women at a table beside me were torn over what to get, yet
thrilled with their decisions in the end. Two men on the other
side discussed the specials, but ended up happy to order off
the menu. I mixed it up a little.
The Shrimp Bisque, served in a sourdough bread bowl, started
the feast, which was to include a pair of appetizers and a
pair of entrees clearly I had no intention of cleaning
my plates. But good intentions are often corrupted, especially
when you can run your spoon along the inside of the bread
bowl to blend softened fresh bread with flavorful bisque.
Every spoonful had cut chunks of fresh shrimp in it
Tony, who carried this dish over from Monica Bella, said raw
shrimp is added to the bisque at the last minute so when it
is served it still has a bite to it, but it is perfectly cooked
by the soup.
The bisque was followed by the Parmigiana Crusted Polenta
($9.95), which is served with broccoli rabe, chopped tomatoes,
sweet Italian sausage thinly cut on a bias garlic,
oil and a demi glace. The bitterness of the rabe was downplayed
by the sharpness of the garlic while the rest of the flavors
swirled on the palate, offering a different flavor combination
on each bite.
Taking a momentary pause between dishes, I noticed that as
I ate the restaurant had begun to fill up with a great variety
of diners families with children, old friends and professionals
just out from work.
As I was taking all of this in, my server delivered the first
entrée Tomato Ravioli stuffed with Mascarpone,
Mozzarella, Sour Cream and Sun-dried Tomatoes, all in a hearty
pomodoro sauce. The ravioli, each with a great amount of heft
to it, was delightfully rich; the combination of cheeses had
multiple textures, from chopped chunks to creamy decadence.
Though the sauce, which included sweet roasted onion that
still had a slight snap on the bite, was a great tomato reduction,
it did not steal from either the tomato in the ravioli dough
or the sun-dried tomatoes within; each was able to maintain
its own identity.
The final entrée was a standard a test of an
Italian restaurants mettle, because everybody makes
it, and too many fail to handle it well Veal Parmigiana
with Linguine ($18.95). There are times that the veal is tough
this was not one of those times. Pounded thin and cooked
tender, the veal rendered the knife nearly unnecessary. Covered
in Martonis house red sauce and cheese, the veal was
soft, perfectly cooked and slightly sweet, which led me to
wonder if there was added sugar in the breading or if the
fried pieces were brushed with simple syrup.
But when I tasted the linguine, I realized that neither was
the case as the pasta shared the same sweetness. It
seems the sweetness came from the sauce, though not from sugar
or an actual sweetener, but from a different cooking process
that would come as no surprise to a French chef, but may seem
odd in an Italian kitchen. Odd or not, the choice is fantastic
and the sauce is luscious, giving a whole new palate from
which the chef at Martonis can paint.
The dessert tray included no less than eight fresh cakes and
a Napoleon made by co-owner Tony himself. German Chocolate,
Oreo, two different cheesecakes and a peanut butter fudge
mousse cake all looked wonderful, but I had to go with the
Napoleon which is served with a steak knife.
Fresh custard is layered between the thinnest sheets of pastry
dough, and the knife allows you to cut through without squishing
the cake, and forcing all the custard out the sides. Topped
in powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate sauce, the Napoleon
was lush and smooth without being overly sweet or incredibly
dense. The lightness of the flaky dough and simplicity of
the powdered sugar was a welcome change from the heavy, iced
monstrosities you tend to find in bakeries.
Overall, the evening at Martonis was a perfect way to
relax with a good meal, some lively conversation and a sampling
of some creative flavors. There may be hope for new life yet
for the Jericho restaurant strip. Enjoy!
1801 East Jericho Turnpike, Greenlawn
Atmosphere: Warm, inviting
Price Range: In the middle
Hours: Lunch Mon-Sat,
Dinner 7 days