Cipollini Newsday Review
Trattoria & Bar

Mar 30, 2016

In the fashion of Armani and Prada, one size never fits all. That’s why Cipollini is the ideal Americana shopping center restaurant. It’s custom-made.

Since 2005, this has been the stylish trattoria of the Miracle Mile, a movie-set tribute to modern and classic Milan, sleek and handsome. Arrive at busy lunch or the early hours of dinner, and you’ll think auditions are underway.

The marble bar, cool to eye and touch, is populated by imbibers and socializers who clearly have been using credit cards beyond platinum and gold. On the wrist, the style is more Rolex than Patek Philippe; the arm, Louis Vuitton rather than Bottega Veneta. Overall, Cipollini calls for a Bellini or a Negroni, but it effortlessly survives the lure of the lychee martini and pomegranate Margarita.

Polished dark wood, soft-glow lighting and alfresco tables ready for the warm weather add to the image and the appeal, even if that seating is just off the parking lot. Yes, that’s a Bentley and that’s a Lamborghini. What matters more, however, is that the food often is very good or better, service attentive and the mood upbeat. Besides, everyone dining isn’t devoted to designers. Cipollini does have something for almost any appetite.

Given the possibilities and the real estate, Cipollini is a remarkably unpretentious and fairly priced spot, anchoring the east end of the Americana the way Toku Modern Asian highlights dining in the middle. Both are expertly run, as are Bryant & Cooper and Hendrick’s Tavern of Roslyn, both in Roslyn, two more members of the Poll brothers’ starry local repertoire.

Chef German Rizzo arrived in November and has kept the quality high. There has been little or no tweaking the menus. Favorites remain from the early days, when Cipollini earned two stars.

So, order that brick-oven, robiola pizza, which would be just fine without the truffle oil. Nibble on the crisp fritto misto of squid, shrimp and zucchini. Debate whether the grilled baby octopus needs the overdose of dill. Daydream about Harry’s Bar with the rosy beef carpaccio, or summertime in Venice while putting a fork in the bright seafood salad. Take a Greek turn with tzatziki, the yogurt dip. Have the prosciutto-mozzarella-tomato panino, if not the turkey-Brie-pancetta concession.

Contemplate the hard trade-off made by those in size-zero dresses as they fall back on bucatini Pomodoro. Or stick to a half-portion of the savory spaghetti alla carbonara, here with peas; and black linguine with lobster and arugula, in lobster broth. You might expect that reaction to the heavy-duty risotto with shredded beef short rib, but not to dependable rigatoni alla Nonna with eggplant and ricotta salata.

Naturally, Cipollini prepares a pristine and ample veal Milanese. And the version of chicken Parmigiana, almost refreshingly contra-chic, also is pretty good. Roasted chicken “under a brick,” juicy and well-seasoned, improves on it, as does a refined riff on chicken scarpariello.

Rizzo’s seafood selections take in an expected, safety-first pan-seared salmon; and the now-obligatory tuna steak. But he excels with the whole, grilled red snapper, finished minimally with herbs and olive oil; and the snowy halibut paired with braised leeks.

Greek yogurt with honey and chopped walnuts is the outlier among desserts. The creamy New York cheesecake, however, earns its place. While both are recommended, sample the excellent tiramisu and biscotti, perhaps with a double espresso or a glass of vin santo. Grappa Nonino, too.

Besides, the stores are all closed by sundown.

Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski