By Danny, Peter & Betty
While one might argue not to mess with the classics, Jonathan’s Ristorante Executive Chef Tito Onofre is introducing new visions of some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, balanced with timeless favorites.
Not to fear – the rule of Jonathan’s hasn’t changed. That one is simple: “Order what you’re in the mood for, and let the magic happen” at the hands of Onofre, a Florida Culinary Institute graduate and veteran who has cooked for the jury at James Beard House and held court at Jonathan’s, owned by Roberto Oronato, for the last 17 years.
A wild mushroom risotto has been punched up to become Risotto all’Anatra ($15 app, $25 main course), a creamy, expertly prepared dish punctuated with buttery morsels of duck sausage, fresh mushrooms and crisp, yet tender asparagus.
Organic Bell & Evans chicken sings in Polletto alle Olive e Albicocche ($27), dressed in sweet-and-salty marriage of green olive, apricot and pancetta sauce. It’s the same great chicken boasting a more daring treatment; previously, it was conservative lemon and Italian herbs.
And the sea shines with an outrageously tasty Tonno ai Pomodori Freschi ($31), seared and peppery yellowfin tuna served aside a red-yellow grape tomato vinaigrette, polenta cake and broccoli rabe; a change from its previous companion, an avocado-tomato salad as a play on the tartare app ($17).
Don’t fear – if you’re hooked on the classics, you can get it just how you like it.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the tender, thick and juicy Maiale con Vegetali Tartufati ($33), a double-cut pork chop with cipolline onions, Tuscan potatoes and artichokes from which the intoxicating truffle oil wafts from the plate and lures you in. Hang around here for a while and you’ll find that Tito has a thing for truffles. More on that as we go along.
Another thing that remains constant is Jonathan’s impeccable eye for wine. They’ve earned Wine Spectator magazine’s Award of Excellence every year since 2004 with a diverse selection from Germany, California, the northwest United States, Australia, Argentina, Chili, Spain, France and – where else? – lots of bottles from Italy. From high-priced exotics to more modestly-stickered favorites, they’ve got something for everybody, and they give 30-percent off bottles on Mondays and Sundays – a way to say thank you to the regulars, general manager Alex Vergara said.
During our most recent visit, Tito and Alex showcased some of the new features of the menu. Those include kale, that light, leafy veggie that’s been all the rage of late and appears in Spiedino di Gamberi ($27), a pairing of expertly grilled tiger shrimp, salsa verde, a delicious faro salad and sautéed kale.
With Insalata di Verza ($12), bold truffled pecorino takes the spotlight in a medley of baby kale, pears, toasty pine nuts and baby enoki mushrooms. Prosciutto di Parma ($16) just about melts in your mouth, a smooth-as-silk blend of 18-month aged prosciutto, smooth gorgonzola and crunchy sweet-and-tart apple, each complementing the other perfectly.
Also complementing the bar business nicely is a happening new happy hour. Dollar Blue Point oysters and $2 off beverages from 5-8 p.m. every day but Saturday have buoyed bar menu sales and packed the attractive front end. Tito says they’re prepared to go through as many as 200 a night.
You might be apt to go through 200 a night of the classic pumpkin ravioli ($14 appetizer/$23 entrée), which delightfully blurs the line between dinner and dessert with al-dente perfect pasta, sage butter sauce and a sweet cinnamon crunch from amaretto cookie dust.
But one finisher that’s decidedly dessert and decadently blissful is a Nutella Tiramisu ($10), a melt-in-your mouth confection crowned in a blizzard of chocolate shavings. For more subtle stylings, we enjoy Pinenut/Rosemary Tart ($10), with zabaglione gelato.
It all goes back to Tito’s philosophy: play nice on the plate.
“You try to make them work well with the other,” he says. “They’re supposed to complement each other, not fight.”
15 Wall St., Huntington village
Atmosphere: Homey Tuscany
Cuisine: Northern Italian
Lunch Hours: Mon-Sat, noon-3 p.m.
Dinner Hours: Mon-Thurs 5-10 p.m.; Fri-Sat 5-10:30 p.m.; Sun 4-9 p.m.