Best Of The Wursts: Bistros And Clam Bars

Popei’s shrimp, calamari and bay scallops with spinach over zucchini linguini.

Aperitif Bistro and Wine Bar in Rockville Centre is owned by Peter Oktas and Julio Velasquez, the same owners as Sage Bistro in Bellmore, Sage BistroModerne in Woodbury, and another Aperitif in Bayside.

It stands out among fine restaurants. The large venue has warm red hues, a wraparound bar island and an outdoor dining patio. It is not uncommon to be treated to live music.

Here you’ll find assorted small plates and entrees not found elsewhere. The extensive wine list has many modestly priced and some rarities. The complimentary crispy French bread is authentic. Jeff usually asks for thirds.

Try mussels, a French bistro favorite, as a small plate or an entrée. Other bistro dishes are foie gras and chicken liver mousse joined by red onion marmalade and toast points, steak tartare, Brie fondue with apple pieces or bread for dipping, escargots, tuna tartare, and French onion soup.

The charcuterie plate includes Roquefort, truffle pecorino, midnight moon goat, and Manchego cheeses. Accompanying these can be saucisson sec, prosciutto di Parma, duck rillettes, duck prosciutto, dry cured chorizo, chicken liver and foie gras mousse. Pick three for $12, five for $18, or the Aperitif board for $25.

Typical French main dishes include the sole meuniere served with julienne vegetables and potato puree; coq au vin braised in red wine with bacon, mushrooms, vegetables, and mashed potatoes; canard served with julienne vegetables and basmati rice, and a boeuf Bourguignon with carrots, bacon, mushrooms and mashed potatoes.

We enjoy dining here because with their small plates we can have many different tastes at a reasonable price. Our most recent visit was with another couple so we maximized our choices.

We started with well-executed tuna tartare; authentic steak tartare; a grilled shrimp tower with hearts of palm, avocado, frisee, and a delicate tang of citrus; grilled octopus with chorizo, fingerling potatoes, and cherry peppers; zucchini pancakes served with a dill sauce; chopped salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, pepper, onion and Romaine in a lemon dressing; and a marinated artichoke with arugula salad served with a lemon truffle vinaigrette and Parmesan cheese.

Naturally, for dessert, there’s crème brulee, mousse, profiteroles, soufflé, and crepe suzette, but we prefer the apple tarte tatin. A cheese plate is also available. Don’t forget their specialty coffee.

Aperitif Bistro and Wine Bar, 242 Sunrise Hwy., Rockville Centre, 516-594-3404.

Popei’s Clam Bar and Seafood Restaurant has been family owned and operated in Bethpage for 35 years and remains a popular mainstay for family dining, even on a weekday evening.

Two pages of the menu list starters, not including the homemade soups on a third page. Another two pages are for specials — one with nightly specials and another with specials for the evening. Entrees are served with a salad and choice of potato or linguini. The selections are eclectic and extensive even though the restaurant is billed as a clam bar and seafood restaurant. Our grandson, Matt, picked the venue because he loves their chicken wings.

The meal starts with delicious garlic bread, a marriage of olive oil, butter, garlic and paprika, made fresh daily. All wines can be had by the glass or the bottle. The reasonable bottle prices range from $28 to $47.

We kicked off the meal with appetizers of fresh seafood fried, steamed, baked, Thai style, on the half shell, peel and eat. For mains, we shared baked ravioli, shrimp topped with mozzarella, a lobster and shrimp fettuccine in an alfredo sauce, chicken Parmesan, and blackened sea bass served over spinach ($27.99). All fish can be prepared blackened, Cajun, broiled or Mediterranean. Zucchini linguini or gluten-free pasta is also offered instead of starch.

Desserts include an apple pie that is billed as Granny Jo’s Apple Pie. You can also find cheesecake, cannoli, chocolate lava cake, and carrot cake. Our granddaughters selected the Nestle’s Toll House cookie topped with ice cream and whipped cream and Mighty Rob’s waffle sundae for two.

Popei’s is a fun place to go for dinner with the family and it won’t break the bank.

Popei’s Clam Bar is located at 384 North Wantagh Ave., Bethpage. They can be reached at popeisbethpage.com or 516-822-9169.

Jeff is a practicing attorney. Vera is a retired schoolteacher. Both love Long Island food and
wine and are delighted to share their discoveries with you. Contact them via [email protected].