Grasso: Fine Dining and Jazz
By Pete & Mike/ email@example.com
Bravo: a most fitting description of the
creative efforts, work and life of restaurateur Gail Grasso
proprietor and guiding light of Trattoria Grasso, one of Long
Island’s truly unique dining venues. Gail, in her previous
work-life – way back in the mid 70’s – was
one of the early staffers of a start-up company called Cablevision.
Among other amazing achievements, Gail guided the compilation
of the American Movie Classics film library, and she named
“Bravo,” the Cablevision-owned, highly regarded
Film and Arts Network.
The Foodies’ visit to Gail’s
Trattoria Grasso earned a bravo – make that a bravissimo
– on many different levels for this very pleasant and
comfortable one-of-a-kind winner. Trattoria Grasso is the
only fine dining establishment on Long Island where you can
experience world-class jazz, tableside, as you dine. Sitting
just feet away from a superb trio: vocalist Ernie Byrd with
Wayne Sabela on piano and Noriko Ueda on bass, took the dining
sensory experience to new places. Grasso is all about the
senses and Ernie, the musical director – a story unto
himself – masterfully fills the room and the outdoor
patio with melodic and memorable tones. Ernie and Friends
appear Wednesday and Saturday nights while master jazz artists
delight on Thursdays and Fridays. And starting Memorial Day,
it’ll also be jazz in the afternoon, outside on the
patio. Ernie – classically trained and doing this since
age three – is the best musical find on Long Island.
He assures us his Rolodex, filled from his days at Sonny’s
Place in Seaford, consistently produces first-rate performances.
What a marvelous place, you bring your wife, eat, listen and
enjoy -- you don’t have to talk! Also, right next door
is Gail and Ernie’s Cold Spring Harbor Arts Center offering
musical performances, exhibitions and other events –
details can be found on their website.
But we told you Trattoria Grasso is about
all the senses. While Ernie’s soulful melodies fill
the room, equally creative and bold music fills each plate.
The man who orchestrates the kitchen masterpieces is chef
Tony Canales, who has been with Gail since she first opened
on Union Place in Huntington more than a dozen years ago.
Tony’s tasteful flavorings, artistic presentation, and
culinary elegance set a food standard that will bring you
back time after time.
Our meal began with wonderful crusty bread
and three spreads (a creamy Dijon mustard butter; basil in
olive oil; and a tapanade) and a skilled server – who
kept our glasses filled throughout the evening – greeted
us as Gail brought us to the table. The Trattoria’s
almost completed renovation, with a sleek new bar and walls
hand painted in a Tuscan-y metallic caramel yellow color,
were complemented with fresh tropical flowers up front and
a rose on each table. Comfort – not a bit of stuffiness
– is at the heart of Gail’s place. Ernie brings
The food is the magic.
With appetizers on the menu ranging from
PEI mussels in basil, white wine and garlic ($10) to grilled
barbeque shrimp with apple honey slaw, pineapple salsa and
citrus coulis ($14), we opted for two of the specials. The
mushroom caps stuffed with goat cheese was perfectly baked
with a gentle pesto and bread crumb coating. The clams posillipo
was as good as it gets – the whole clams with garlic,
basil and tomatoes served in a bowl and sauce that we just
had to consume like soup when we were finished. Mmmmmm! Blue
point oysters topped with Pecorino and pesto tempted us, but
we were thrilled with the choices we made.
There are enchanting salads $8 - $10, and
pastas that beckoned including: tagliatela Bolognese –
a classic Italian meat ragu; a potato gnocchi – pesto,
ricotta salata (appetizer $11 or entrée $20). We must
go back to try Millie’s Linguine Aragosta with lobster,
clams and shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce $16/28.
The menu main courses ($22-29) ran the gamut
– chicken, pork, fish, shellfish, steak – each
had an ever so slightly creative flair distinguishing it from
traditional fine Italian fare: the red onion jam to accompany
the braised short ribs, the blackberry sauce on the Long Island
duck, the shallot thyme jus of the chicken breast with prosciutto
and mozzarella. All were testaments to the care and concern
taken by creative chef Tony to complete the total sensory
We chose one of our favorites, the Veal Milanese
– breaded scallopine of veal covered with chopped tricolor
salad, capers and tomatoes – which we always top with
a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. It was as good as we’ve
had. The fresh salad was more complex than most and the perfect
complement to the tender yet crisp, delicious veal. The sautéed
veggies on the side included several mini squashes perfectly
prepared and fun to both look at and eat.
The many main course specials included: a
whole roasted bronzino flavored with garlic, rosemary, lemon
and basil, filleted tableside; a pan-seared red snapper in
a red roasted pepper and fennel broth over risotto; and a
grilled sirloin topped with Portobello mushroom.
Our choice was the black and white sesame-crusted
tuna with hoisin citrus sauce and wasabi aioli accompanied
by those fun squashes and an earthy tasting braised red cabbage.
Again, Chef Tony’s magic was evident as the sweet hoisin
glaze offset the toned-down, yet poignant statement of the
almost creamy wasabi drizzle.
The desserts merit a story of their own –
we sampled several. We’d insist you try the triple chocolate
mousse cake – a creamy chocolate treat so light you
could almost convince us it’s low-calorie – and
Grasso’s own Napoleon, but they were all very special
and prepared with the same love and care evident in each part
of the Trattoria Grasso dining experience.
Priced no higher than your local, fine Italian
restaurant, Trattoria Grasso presents a total sensory experience
produced by a comfortable room, warm people, wonderful food
and remarkable music. Trattoria Grasso is an amazing find
for anyone wishing to indulge their senses.
We’ll be back . . . often!
134 Main Street
Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724
Fine Italian restaurant with live jazz
Price Range: High Moderate
Lunch: Mon - Fri: beginning
Sat: beginning at 1 p.m.
Dinner: Mon - Sat: 5 p.m. to closing
Sun: 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.