La Volpe is the American dream realized. The restaurant is owned by members of the Volpe family who arrived on Long Island from Sicily in 1985 and opened Anton Pizzeria in Center Moriches two years later. The success of that venture ultimately led to the building of La Volpe, a large Villa-style place that opened across the street in 2006. It incorporated the pizzeria (still named Anton) in the building.
The enterprise is run by the four Volpe brothers: Franco is the chef of La Volpe, Roberto is the host and wine buyer there, while Salvatore and Calogero oversee Anton's. The restaurant would be home in Agrigento. The floors are tile, and the walls are dotted with large paintings of famous Italians like Pavarotti and Sophia Loren. Decorations include Sicilian pottery and copper vessels, along with wrought-iron and cement chandeliers.
Waiters are friendly, efficient and well trained. Runners know who ordered each dish. Hard on their heels are staff members with cheese and a pepper mill.
The owners are proud of the wood-burning pizza oven and the thin crusted pies. Ten individual pizzas ($12 to $16) are offered on the dinning room menu. One, the margherita, was a winning opener, with a lush slick of fresh mozzarella and fresh basil.
Another starring appetizer was a special of four sea scallops in a tangy limoncello sauce, sprinkled with buttery bread crumbs on a bed of julienned carrots and zucchini. Also appealing were two filler-free crab cakes on top of sauteed spinach, with squiggles of spicy mayonnaise on the plate.
Salads delivered as well. Our favorite was the Mediterranea, with mixed greens, tomatoes, olives and creamy gorgonzola cheese in a raspberry vinaigrette. An arugula-fennel salad with goat cheese, olives, and orange dressing ran a close second. Romaine lettuce topped with paper-thin prosciutto slices, lump crabmeat and sliced avocado, and drizzled with red wine-pear reduction, was an unusual amalgam that worked.
About a dozen pastas are offered. we opted for the amatriciana sauce over spaghetti (rather than the rigatoni listed on the menu) and the kitchen was happy to oblige. The tomato sauce was slightly spicy and liberally dotted with pancetta and onions. The tagliatelle bolognese with a homemade sauce also deserved kudos.
The entree I would order again is the pan-roasted fillet of salmon in a wild fennel and mustard seed cream sauce. It was perfectly cooked, and the lush sauce made it even better. Also good were the Chilean sea bass with cherry tomatoes, capers and shallots on a bed of sauteed spinach, and four veal scaloppine sauteed with garlic, capers and olives in a chunky plum tomato sauce, with a very light glaze of melted fresh mozzarella. A special pork chop stuffed with prosciutto had a delicious port sauce and shitake mushrooms.
Desserts are good and reasonably priced. We have tiramisu, the molten center chocolate cake and the coppa catalana (creamy custard topped with crunchy caramelized sugar).
La Volpe is the kind of warm, welcoming Italian restaurant everyone wants in the neighborhood. I wish it were in mine.
-- FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES --