Jonathan’s Ristorante: A Huntington Treasure

The mozzarella di Buala at Jonathan’s.
The mozzarella di Buala at Jonathan’s.

Jonathan’s Ristorante, a Huntington fine dining staple since 1994, has endured longer than most restaurants downtown. Originally a deli, its previous owner sold it to Roberto Ornato, who converted it into a fine restaurant but kept the name.

Roberto was born in Torino, the automobile center of Italy that’s home to Fiat, raised in Rome, and brought to the U.S. various styles of Italian cuisine. He worked for Cipriani for 10 years before venturing out on his own.

At this well-run establishment, the service is impeccable without being intrusive. Shortly after we were seated, the manager, Alex Vergara, stopped by to greet us and chat about the menu.

Tito Onofre, who has been the executive chef for almost 21 years, brings training from his native Peru and the Florida Culinary Institute. Classic, refined dishes emerge from his small kitchen with minimal storage. As a result, deliveries are daily, assuring that the freshest ingredients are used.

Jonathan’s eclectic menu emulates what was cooked up in Ornato’s mother’s kitchen. The menu changes seasonally but popular classic mainstays are always available. Choices range to please the simpler tastes or the tastes of more sophisticated, well-travelled diners. Sometimes they push the envelope with unique dishes. Once seated we were presented with perfect bread — crusty on the outside and soft inside, along with fresh-cut Parmesan cheese and olives.

We started our dinner with piatto di salami, served on a slate board, including various meats: speck (cured ham from the South Tyrol mountains in northern Italy), prosciutto, mortadella (a cooked meat similar to bologna), and two types of salami. Figs, Parmesan cheese and other seasonal garnishes were added to enhance flavors.

Burrata uniquely was served with peaches, heirloom tomato, and kale. Fritto di carciofini is marinated, sautéed artichokes flambéed and adorned with pesto sauce. A bed of yellowfin tuna tartare comes over cucumber slices partnered with avocado salad and wasabi mayonnaise.

The fresh arugula and Parmesan salad is painted with a citrus dressing with lemon, lime, and orange juices. A special appetizer we sampled was wild-caught seared sea scallops, served with sautéed baby artichokes and basil pesto garnished with watercress.

We enjoyed two homemade fresh pastas: bucatini with a lavish Bolognese sauce laced with parsley, and linguini with shrimp and grape tomatoes merged with a creative nduja sauce.

Artistic entrees were blackened yellowfin tuna, layered with spinach under polenta and guacamole draped by cilantro oil, dressed up with watercress in an array of perfect color and contrast. The anatra alle more (Long Island duck breast) was a mosaic of flavors, textures and colors served with a delicate blackberry sauce, farro and roasted Brussels sprouts. Whole California blackberries accompanied the dish and were the perfect finish to the palate.

The bistecca alla griglia is so good it needs no embellishment to get a full flavor. No sauce needed but it may be served with the black truffle butter, peppercorn sauce or plain olive oil.

The branzino is an eloquently prepared, butterflied fish left with backbone, appearing with frisee, fennel and apple salad.

Vegan dishes are available along with other dietary desires. All items are made to order thus accommodating any diet restrictions.

Desserts are all homemade. We tried the maple mascarpone cheesecake, with a texture between Italian and New York cheesecake. The domestic and international wine list is extensive, with reasonably priced, excellent wines and selections for those special occasions. We chose the 2012 Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino ($75), which was both extraordinary and underpriced.

The adventure was thrilling. Dine at Jonathan’s and leave happy!

Jonathan’s Ristorante, 15 Wall St., Huntington. 631-549-0055. Lunch Tuesday – Saturday 12-PM-3PM. Dinner Tuesday- Thursday 5PM-10PM, Friday and Saturday 5PM- 10:30PM, Sunday 4PM-9PM. Lunch starts at $10. Prix Fixe dinner nightly $35. Appetizers $10-$18. Pasta (half portions available)$19-$26. Entrées $22- $45.

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].

The wild caught sea scallops at Jonathans are a work of art.
The wild-caught sea scallops at Jonathans are a work of art.