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Italian Shore Thing

An authentic taste of Italy’s coast at La Piccola Liguria

I’ve eaten at La Piccola Liguria many times, but have yet to order from the menu. I am always so dazzled by the list of specials reeled off from memory by the waiter that one of those items invariably becomes my choice.

This daily interpretation of the specials is just one part of the ambiance of this excellent restaurant, which has taken its inspiration from Liguria, the region of Italy that stretches west in a narrow ribbon along the coast from France. La Piccola Liguria is located on Shore Road in the upper reaches of Port Washington.

There is a seaside feel to the place, with large porthole-like windows looking out toward the harbor. The walls are a soft white and there is a green accent throughout—the chairs, rug and murals of trees interspersed with lush green plants. Recently, the tablecloths were peachy-pink. The tables are well spaced. The small bar area is apart from the dining room, so people having a drink there are not disturbing the diners. It is a thoroughly relaxing place to have a meal, especially with the music which owner Victor Raimondo, a Ligurian native, has piped in directly from Italy.

On one visit, the entrée list included monk fish Francaise, wild salmon in champagne sauce, pork sausage with lentils, calves liver with onion and balsamic vinegar, braised beef in Barolo wine and seafood risotto.

When calves liver or veal tonnato are on the menu, I order at least one of them as an appetizer or main course, because at La Piccola Liguria they do these dishes exceptionally well and they are not offered in many other restaurants. Veal tonnato is chilled veal in a tuna sauce. It sounds a bit strange, but it is delicious. A layer of thin slices of fork-tender veal is laid out on a platter and covered with the rich sauce made up of tuna, eggs, wine, capers and other ingredients. At La Piccolo Liguria the dish was garnished with cornichons, tomatoes and a hard-boiled quail’s egg. I found that the tonnato was great on the garlic toast in the breadbasket.

All the entrees were substantial and came with vegetable sides.

The wine list is extensive and each day there are five red wines and three whites by the glass.

The desserts that are made in-house are ricotta cheesecake, pannacotta, tiramisu, fruit tart, chocolate mousse and, my favorite, semifreddo. Semifreddo has the texture of frozen mousse and contains bits of nuts and chocolate. It is served with a fruit sauce and fresh whipped cream. La Piccolo Liguria also offers a complementary plate of fresh fruit at meal’s end. Says Raimondo, “We don’t let them go home without something at the end of the meal.” No wonder nearly 95 percent of the diners are returnees.

The service is excellent and dependable, with most of the staff having been there since the restaurant opened 23 years ago. A service I appreciate at La Piccola Liguria is that you don’t see your leftovers until you are leaving the restaurant. No bulky bags or foil wrapped packages clutter up your table. Instead, the packages are waiting for you in the reception area as you depart.

The restaurant seats 55 and is available for private parties on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

La Piccola Liguria is at 47 Shore Rd. The phone number is 516-767-6490.