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Long popular with Port Washington residents who enjoy first-class Italian cuisine, the Romantico of Capri restaurant on Shore Road has completed extensive renovations inside and out. The Port Washington News recently revisited Romantico, and we were enchanted by the charming and elegant atmosphere.

Michael Tizzano, owner of the newly renovated Romantico restaurant, stands under the graceful arch leading to the new Capri room.

What was previously the party room is now a public dining room, separated from the front room with an attractive arch. The walls are decorated with wonderful murals depicting scenes from owner Michael Tizzano's beloved Capri. It's a little bit of Italy on Manhasset Bay, and at sunset, it's unbeatable.

The diner is welcomed with a basket of home-baked focaccia and a variety of marinated olives. Romantico offers an exceptional selection of really fine wines, specializing in Italian wines, but also offering Australian and California varieties. Tizzano said that he has begun to create a wine cellar with wines from selected wineries and vintages. One of them, the Chianti classico "Castello di Tizzano," he said got a "3-glasses" rating from the Wine Spectator.

For the antipasto, we sampled a polenta prepared with gorgonzola. It was slightly crispy, buttery and delicious. The gorgonzola added a bit of piquancy, not too strong. The polenta dish was served with fresh spring asparagus perfectly prepared. All of Romantico's vegetables were cooked just right, never overdone. Our personal favorite starter was the funghi misti. The dish is created with a mixture of seasonal mushrooms, sautéed in garlic and oil with fresh herbs and a touch of white wine. The mushrooms were slightly charred, giving them a wonderful smoky flavor. Other interesting appetizers are Prince Edward mussels in a tomato-herb broth, carpaccio "Via Camarelle," and a combination of zucchini and shrimp, as well as the traditional baked clams oreganata, fried calamari, and bufala mozzarella with salami and beefsteak tomatoes. Romantico also offers a good variety of fresh salads.

For the pasta course, we had rigatoni "Sisina," named after Tizzano's mother, who, he said "can't cook anything without eggplant." (He commented that many of the restaurant's dishes are adapted from her recipes.) The rigatoni was sautéed in a fresh tomato sauce with eggplant and fresh basil, and served with melted mozzarella on top, making for a tasty and delicious dish. We also sampled an outstanding seafood pasta called linguini "golfo," with generous portions of calamari, oversized shrimp, clams, and Prince Edward mussels. It was covered with a nicely spiced light tomato sauce. Romantico's menu lists a number of other interesting pasta dishes.

The restaurant offers a good variety of meat and fish entrées, with specials that vary daily. An outstanding selection is the orata-a fish (sea bream) long popular in Mediterranean countries. The tender white fish was served with a light, creamy lemon buttery sauce and spinach redolent with olive oil and garlic, and slightly crispy. Another recommended choice is the lamb "osso bucco," a braised lamb shank marinated in a wonderful spice combination and cooked until it falls off the bone and melts in the mouth. It was accompanied by fresh julienne vegetables. Also delicious was the veal "Romantico," tender veal scaloppini topped with diced eggplant, mozzarella, and a light sauce.

The diner is well advised to save room for Romantico's outstanding dessert. The gelato comes in a dozen flavors, and was served in a first-rate chocolate shell. The profiteroles-cream puffs filled with Chantilly cream and rolled in chocolate cream-are excellent. Also recommended are the tiramisu and the "torta della bonna," which translates as "grandma's cake," a light pastry with a hint of lemon and topped with pignolli, almonds, and powdered sugar. A different and delicious dessert is the "pan di zucchero," which Romantico calls their "signature dessert." It is an unusual kind of homemade bread pudding made from panettone in a custard base with raisins and candied orange. The black forest cake, to quote one of our dining companions, "is to die for." As if these weren't enough, a big bowl of chocolates, some with messages similar to fortune cookies, are available on the way out. The excellent coffee is served in generous-sized cups, and the espresso is dark and rich. Romantico is a good place to go to for an after-the-movie dessert and coffee.

Romantico's appetizer prices are in the $8 to $10 range. The pasta is about $14-18, and entrées $17-24. They offer a prix fixe dinner Sunday through Thursday for $23.95, which includes soup or salad, entrée, coffee and dessert. Other specials include a 10 percent discount for seniors on Mondays and Tuesdays, a lobster special on Wednesdays, 30 percent off all wines on Thursdays, and a "sunset special" on Fridays and Saturdays before 6:00. Wines range from $27 a bottle to over $100 for wines of distinction.

Romantico of Capri is located at 45 Shore Road, telephone 767-8003. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday from noon to 10 p.m., Saturdays until 11:30 p.m., and Sundays until 9:30 p.m..

Note that if you are in the mood for lighter fare, Tizzano's sister restaurant, Sisina, is just up the road. Sisina has recently redone its patio, just in time for warm weather outdoor dining. Logo
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