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Everyone’s Family

Have you ever found yourself, when traveling through an area like New England, entering a charming restaurant and saying, “I wish we had a place like this on Long Island”?

Well, such a spot does exist at Rachel’s Cafe in Syosset.

Rachel’s, named for chef/owner Joe Doering’s mother, has been serving excellent food in this little strip mall on Berry Hill Road for 21 years. The café has an intimate, welcoming feel, with soft yellow walls, soft lighting and tables covered with white cloths and white paper. The menu is primarily Italian, offering pasta, pizza and dishes such as roasted shitake mushroom over polenta and 1000 Herb Chicken with a sauté of white beans, tomatoes and breadcrumbs. Most of the basics are made fresh such as the pizza dough and tomato sauce, long pastas (both semolina and whole wheat) and chicken stock.

The list of specials is always interesting. On a recent visit there was grilled chicken breasts atop sautéed kale, butternut squash, turnips and currants; whole wheat linguini with Taylor Bay scallops, mussels, crumbled sausage, corn and okra in garlic and oil; whole pompano with preserved lemon and herbes de Provence with a side of garlicky garlic and oil; and jambalaya.

We covered the two ends of the east coast, ordering Taylor Bay scallops (Cape Cod) and pompano (Florida). The pompano, buttery to begin with, was enhanced with a butter and lemon sauce and very crispy skin, and Taylor Bay scallops were not only tasty but also beautiful in their orange shells.

All dessert items are made in-house by Angela Doering. It was Rachel who inspired Angela to bake: when she was a teenager, Angela worked in Rachel’s bakery at the Broadway Mall. It was there, too, that she met Joe.

The desserts, which change often except for the very popular black magic cake (dark chocolate layer cake with vanilla frosting), included tiramisu, lemon meringue pie, peanut butter cheesecake with a warm brandy, chocolate sauce, chocolate pecan pie and coconut cake. I went with the coconut cake, a toothsome white cake with cream cheese icing and shredded coconut. Coco Lopez, usually found as the base for pina coladas, brings the coconut flavor to both the cake and the icing.

Rachel’s Café is at 57 Berry Hill Rd. in Syosset. The phone number is 516-921-0303.