Sisina Pizzeria and Trattoria, Michael Tizzano's new restaurant on Shore Road overlooking Manhasset Bay, offers a little bit of Italy right here in Port. Tizzano said, "When I came back from my vacation in Italy this fall, I was missing what I had there. I wanted to re-create that here." He has succeeded enormously.
When you walk in, it is as if you are in an Italian courtyard. The wall and ceiling murals that re-create the owner's original home in Capri were done by the same artist who decorated Tizzano's next-door restaurant, Romántico. On the ceiling is a depiction of the clock tower in Capri's main piazza. Real clotheslines with vintage clothes complete the effect. And, of course, there are the traditional red checkered tablecloths. There is a large video screen that will show scenes of Italy.
But, of course, it is the food that is most important. In a word, it's delicious. Sisina's quintessentially Italian menu offers a variety of fare, lighter and more moderately priced than its sister restaurant, Romántico. It is a perfect family restaurant, with menu offerings that people of all ages and tastes can enjoy. An Italian-American family of our acquantaince has made Sunday night dinner here a new tradition.
As the name implies, pizza is a specialty. Sisina's is not just any old pizza - it is made as they do in Italy, thin-crusted, moist and tasty without being greasy, and with a diversity of toppings. We had the distinctive pizza al tartufo. Topped with truffle-scented olive oil, sautéed mushrooms, fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, and herbs, it is absolutely outstanding. Also good was the pizza "romántica," with eggplant, roasted peppers, radicchio, and fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce.
There is a full array of pasta offerings. We had the tubettoni "Monte Solaro" and the rigatoni "Lido Faro."(These dishes, like many others, are named after places in Capri.) The tubettoni was very rich, made from smoked bacon, smoked mozzarella, and roasted peppers. The rigatoni created a nice balance between smoked provola cheese and eggplant, served with a fresh tomato sauce. If you prefer more "regular" choices, the menu includes baked ziti, spaghetti with meatballs, and linguini with clam sauce.
Eggplant parmigiana is a house specialty. "Mama can't cook anything without eggplant," jokes Tizzano. (Indeed, many of the menu items include eggplant used in a variety of creative ways, including some of those mentioned above.) The dish is exceptional. The eggplant is thinly sliced and very lightly fried, covered with a fresh tomato sauce. It was served with fresh broccoli, julienne carrots and young green beans, cooked perfectly. In addition to the classic Italian-style dishes, there are also entrées of chicken, salmon, mixed grill, and filet of sole.
We recommend beginning your meal with a selection from the antipasti. The faraglioni salad is a wonderful combination of fresh organic arugula, tomatoes, fruit, and goat cheese. It is dressed with a delicious, light sherry balsamic dressing. The fried calamari is light, fresh and delicious, and the stuffed mushrooms are outstanding.
For dessert, have the Italian cheesecake, light and tasty; the torta della nonna ("Grandma's cake'), satisfying but not too rich or sweet; or the torta caprese, a chocolate almond tart. "It is chocolate to die for," said our dinner companion. Accompanying the dessert is an oversized cup of fresh-brewed coffee.
The atmosphere is festive without being noisy, and the service is gracious and unobtrusive.
Michael Tizzano has created Sisina as a tribute to his mother. ("Sisina" is her nickname.) The menu cover has a reproduction of a letter that Michael wrote to his mother the night of November 5, four days before the restaurant opening. He said, in part, "There are no words to thank you for the way you raised me and the values you gave me.... I give you the gift of this restaurant. I want everyone to know that I love you so." He said that his mother is coming to visit in March or April; we know that she will be very pleased and proud of what her son created.
Located at 55 Shore Road next door to Romántico, Sisina is open for lunch and dinner seven days. Lunch is served from 12 to 3 and dinner until 9:30 or 10 (weekends later). The pizza ranges from $9 to $15; the entrées are from $11 to $15 for the pasta and from $15 to $22 for the specialty entrées. Sisina and Romántico have established a "Dining Rewards" program for their patrons, offering dining certificates for accumulation of a certain number of points. Catering, takeout and delivery are available (minimum $10 for delivery)--telephone 516-767-8877. In the summertime, there will be outdoor dining on a patio overlooking the bay.