When it comes to Italian restaurants on Long Island, we've got cuisines from Sicily to Tuscany and beyond. Now taking on modern Italian from the Campania region (Naples is the capital) is Nunzi’s in Farmingdale, inspired by owner Michael Napolitano’s late grandfather.
"He was cut from a different cloth. He was old school — one of those guys who wore suits to his doctors' appointments," Napolitano recalled of his grandfather, whose nickname was Nunzi growing up.
The family affair goes deeper: Napolitano's mom Stephanie greets customers at the front door on weekends; brother Vincent Jr. will likely take your order. Their father, Vincent, who has owned restaurants and sports bars in Manhattan, acts as consultant. At least once a week, Napolitano’s grandmother, Haydee, is in the kitchen "teaching the guys" how to make dishes using her recipes for specialties such as eggplant Parmesan. Her recipes for potatoes and eggs, and chicken cutlet heros , will debut on the restaurant's soon-to-launch lunch menu. Longtime family friend Thomas Vitale is co-owner.
Located below the Fairfield Knolls apartments, the restaurant is just steps from the LIRR (its tiny signage is easy to miss) and exudes Manhattan vibes. Inside you'll find a chic black interior illuminated by neon signs and glitzy bubble glass light fixtures.
Its Instagrammable details include a gold leaf painted wall with hand-carved roses and butterflies, a pathway of mix and match tile work, and oversized hand-painted portraits of the Rat Pack, Sophia Loren, Monica Bellucci and the man behind it all: Nunzi. "The number one thing," Napolitano said of Nunzi’s ethos, is that "your phone does everything before you do it. It eats first, it walks into a place first."
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Executive chef Marc Wisehart turns out stuffed Italian peppers, pizzas topped with clams or a la scarpariello, cacio e pepe and Grandma’s mixed grill, featuring pork tenderloin, chicken breast and prosciutto-wrapped salmon.
More modern takes on classics include Limoncello wings, "rotolo di uova" (egg rolls stuffed with sweet Italian sausage, broccoli rabe and cheeses), plus "cheesesteaks" with shaved rib-eye, American cheese, caramelized onions, garlic aioli and cherry peppers served on Italian bread.
Diners can round out their meals with the tiramisu explosion, a rainbow cookie cake with tiramisu filing that's covered in white chocolate truffle.
Nunzi’s is at 125 Secatogue Ave., in Farmingdale. It’s open Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 to 10 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays until midnight; Saturdays 2 p.m. to midnight and Sundays 2 to 10 p.m. More info: 516-586-8447; nunzis1274.com