East Quogue Restaurant Review: Cucina Ristorante

“Let our family serve yours,” says Gaetano LoGiudice, chef and owner of Cucina, the newest Italian restaurant in East Quogue. LoGiudice means it, too, as he and his son bring parents, kids, friends and neighbors together to share in family style dining seven nights a week.

LoGiudice grew up in his Sicilian parents’ restaurant in Brooklyn where he learned how to cook while doing his homework after school. He went on to culinary school and opened up several fine dining restaurants. If the name sounds familiar, you may also know him from Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco, Analyze That, The Sopranos and soon you’ll see him in the next season of Boardwalk Empire. He’s balanced his passions and has now decided to plant roots in East Quogue with his family restaurant in hopes of bringing families together to enjoy healthy and authentic Italian dining.

On the rainy night that my boyfriend and I ducked into Cucina, I noticed a family of 12 celebrating a birthday, two ladies sharing a bottle of red wine (it’s currently BYOB) and pasta, and a few tables of four taking part in the Chef’s Tasting. On the other side of the restaurant, separated by a partition, people were stopping in to pick up pizza pies and desserts to take home. On a night like this, it seemed everyone had the same idea: Italian. With the rain coming down in buckets outside, Cucina was welcoming, warm and friendly.

Our tall water glasses were quickly filled as we were brought a basket of homemade focaccia, garlic knots and rustic Italian bread—just out of the oven. The freshly moist and bouncy focaccia was lightly brushed with some of Cucina’s deliciously sweet tomato sauce, a hint of some of the delicious flavors that would soon follow.

Glancing over the menu, we ooh-ed and ahh-ed over options like Cucina Hot Antipasto, Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Insalata, Pasta (you can choose which type) Filetto Pomodoro, Cucina Pescatore (clams, shrimp, mussels, calamari and scungilli in a red or white sauce) Eggplant Rollatini, Chicken Marsala and gourmet pizzas. Everything is made to order and uses organic, locally sourced ingredients. LoGiudice is as passionate about quality as he’s about supporting local fishermen and farmers and keeping our soil and waters clean for future generations.

We began with a Caesar salad and with the option of “half” or “full” we went with full. It was plenty. The Romaine lettuce was crisp, fresh and chopped into bite-size squares and coated in a zesty, creamy Caesar dressing. Next, we each tried one of the chicken entrées—the Francese and the Parmigiana. In retrospect, we could have shared one, as the portion was generous, but nonetheless enjoyed having two very distinct dishes with enough to take home for tomorrow’s lunch. The chicken Francese was cut paillard-style, juicy and served in a lemony-buttery sauce that was at once both light and rich. The Parmigiana took center stage in its presentation—chopped fresh pieces of tomato and cubes of fresh mozzarella covered the breaded chicken, doused in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with fresh basil from the garden. Each mouthful of chicken, tomato, basil and mozzarella, with the oil and vinegar, was more wonderful than the last.

The dinner was delicious and we left feeling satiated but not overly full, which can sometimes be the case at other family-style restaurants. The difference may very well be that with such fresh ingredients there’s little need for extra salt, fat or sugar, so everything was very pure and wholesome. Cucina, Italian for kitchen, was opened in June of this year and plans to stay open year-round.

“I called it Cucina—it’s a kitchen and we want to cook for you,” says LoGuidice.

Cucina, 647 Montauk Highway, East Quogue. 631-996-4550

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