An excellent Northern Italian fine dining experience right here in Great Neck.
Great Neck has its share of Italian restaurants, but most deal in the familiar cooking of south Italy: spaghetti, pizza, and the like with influences from the Mediterranean. Bevanda represents the Northern Italian school of cooking, which has more influences from fine French and European cooking. I definitely recommend it.
REVISED POST – January 27, 2013
This is one of those rare reviews where I wrote a review and I’m changing it only a few weeks later after re-visiting the restaurant and having a much better experience.
The first time I visited Bevanda (below) was on a weekday. In all honesty, it was a little depressing going there, as Lisa and I were among the only patrons in the whole place. But what a difference a weekend makes.
Lisa’s dad is moving back to Taiwan after more than 20 years of living in the United States. We wanted to send him off in style. We’ve already done the Peter Luger thing for his birthday, so we wanted to take him to another special place in Great Neck. Lisa mentioned to me that he is a big fan of marrow, so I immediately thought of treating him to the Osso Buco at Bevanda that I’d enjoyed just a few weeks earlier.
Walking into the restaurant this time was a completely different experience than last time. We came on a Saturday night, and I was glad I made reservations as the restaurant was completely filled to capacity.
We were greeted by a kind gentleman I presume is the owner, as well as our host, again a tall man impeccably dressed in a tux, who led us to our seat. This go-around we were seated in the front room. This room was decorated much more bright an modern than the other room, and we didn’t notice a trace of the odor that we’d smelled last time.
The restaurant was abuzz with waiters in green jackets and bowties and busboys in red jackets and bowties. All the servers were extremely courteous.
As with last time we started with bruschetta, mozzarella cheese, and olives.
Again, it was very well made. The tomatoes were fresh, the bread was toasted just right. We also had the same selection of Italian bread.
We ordered two osso bucos, one for my father-in-law, and one for my mother-in-law. Lisa, again, ordered the linguine with clams, while I decided to switch things up a little and order the Fettucine Alla Bevanda.
We’d actually forgotten to order our appetizer. When we looked around frantically to try to flag down the waiter, the owner actually came up to us and asked if we needed help. He himself placed our order with the kitchen.
When the antipasto dish came out, the server actually dished out the appetizers to each of us. As with last time, the star of the show was the portobella mushrooms, which were perfectly grilled and perfectly seasoned with balsamic vinegar.
The baked clams, shrimp, and mozzarella squares were actually more impressive than last time. In particular, the clams had a wonderful crunchy breadcrumb topping, and very fresh clams inside. Similarly, I was struck at how the mozzarella square didn’t taste as dense or congealed as last time, but was much lighter.
Our entrees came out next. Because it was Lisa’s dad’s last meal in the States for a while, we decided to buy him a glass of wine. We asked the owner to suggest a wine pairing. After stumbling a bit in the beginning, he recovered quickly and suggested a nice Merlot, which ended up going very well with the Osso Buco.
Speaking of which, here it was:
I was struck at how much larger the bone was than last time. It took some work with the little fork to get all the marrow out, but both Lisa’s dad and mom eventually did (in Taiwan they’re so fanatical about marrow that they actually provide straws with their bone marrow, but that didn’t quite work in a fancy restaurant). As with my experience last time, the meat was wonderfully tender, the sauce was light and not overpowering, and the marrow was excellently prepared.
Lisa’s clams were also just as good as last time, in terms of the lightness of the sauce, the freshness of the clams, and the linguine being cooked to perfection. Unlike the last time, we got fresh scallops with the dish this time.
The one bit of disappointment we encountered was that there was sand in many of the clams. Both Lisa and I are a little shy when it comes to complaining to anyone, but when she brought it up to the owner, he seemed genuinely concerned and told us he was glad that we brought it up. He said that he would have a word with his fish guy. It would have been nice if he’d offered to give us a little something to make up for it, but then again neither Lisa nor I are really the kinds to make too much of a fuss.
Finally, here was my fettuccine:
The menu said that the pasta was hand-made, and when I compared my pasta to Lisa’s linguine, I could tell that it was. It had an wonderfully fresh flavor to it, and a wonderfully chewy consistency that you never find in dry noodles. The sauce was a tomato cream sauce that again was light and not too salty. The salmon tasted fresh. Overall, it was an excellent dish that seemed a step above your typical spaghetti and sauce.
We were treated again to the plate of biscotti. We decided to go the extra mile and get coffee along with some Tarfuto.
The Tarfuto was very well made, with a light outer shell of chocolate, chocolate and vanilla ice cream inside, and chopped almonds and a cherry in the middle. It was an excellent way to end the meal.
Service again was very good. Even though the servers and busboys were very busy, they were always attentive to our needs. Walking out, we were thanked with a handshake from the host and by the owner.
Last time I’d given Bevanda a 4 stars out of 5. Based on our last experience, I’m bumping it up to a 4.5. The sand in the clams and the overall priciness (it cost over $200 for the four of us, and this is with only one glass of wine) kept me from going the distance and giving 5 out of 5, but perhaps next time. In the meantime, I definitely recommend Bevanda highly if you want a more upscale Italian dining experience.
ORIGINAL POST – January 7, 2013
Walking into Bevanda late on a weekday evening, it struck me how empty it was, besides us there were about one or two other patrons. We were led to a table in the back of the inside room and I immediately got a whiff of an old and musty smell which wasn’t the most pleasant of odors (Lisa described it as “grandma’s closet”). I also wasn’t immediately impressed with the decor. The carpet looked a little old and worn. The furniture and wallpaper seemed clean and even fairly new, but they still gave off a very old, dated vibe. So I wasn’t too impressed by my first impressions.
On a happier note, the service was excellent from the get-go. We were greeted very warmly by a tall Italian man in a tuxedo, speaking in a friendly and very authentic Italian accent. In fact his accent was so authentic it was hard to make out some of his English at times.
We placed our order. As you’ll know from reading all my past Italian restaurant reviews, my wife Lisa being somewhat predictable will always order the linguine with clams. On the other hand, I never know what to order, so I asked the server for a recommendation of what he considered the best dish in the house.
Without hesitation he said “the veal shank”. Well, actually I think he said “Osso Buco” a few times but I didn’t quite understand at first.
I was a bit surprised. Usually at Italian restaurants they’ll say something predictable like “the chicken Parmesan” or “the spaghetti and meatballs”. But being a Northern Italian restaurant, Bevanda’s menu tends to look a little different than the La Giocondas or the La Bottegas. I learned later that while the lines here in the United States tend to be blurry, Northern Italian food tends to have more butter and cream, versus Southern Italian food which tends to use more olive oil and tomatoes. Northern food also tends to feature more high end cuts of meat, and generally a higher end dining experience.
We were served some very, very fresh bruschetta to start. It was a tad on the oily side, but was made with extremely fresh tomatoes on a generous piece of toasted Italian bread. It was a nice and refreshing way to start the evening. Although again, my plate looked a little old with some discoloring; it was hard for me to tell if the plates were just old or if this was part of the ambience.
Right away we were treated to some complementary bruschetta with olives and mozzarella cheese.
We also had a nice bowl of various breads, including wheat bread, classic Italian bread, and two kinds of breadsticks:
We decided to start the evening with a plate of with hot antipasto, which served two:
The grilled portobello was the star of this plate. It was nice and juicy with the perfect tinge of balsamic vinegar. The shrimp were also excellent-fresh with a nice snap and a good size.
There were mozzarella squares which I was a little less impressed with–it was different than your typical mozzarella sticks, but I found them to be a little overdone on the outside and the breading to be a bit too thick.
The baked clams were very well done. Again, breading was a bit too thick for my taste, but the clams were fresh and chewy, and all the antipasto went very well with the mild butter sauce they were served in.
Here’s what the linguine with clams looked like:
Now those of you who read this blog a lot know that my wife Lisa always orders the same thing in Italian restaurants: the linguine with clams. It’s a handy thing for me as a food blogger, as it gives me a barometer by which to measure every Italian restaurant.
And so it’s no small feat for Bevanda that immediately upon eating it here, her eyes lit up an she said it was among the best she’s ever had. In other places we’ve reviewed, the clams have either been out of a can, or the linguine has been too oily, or the sauce has been too salty. But in this case, everything was close to perfect. The sauce was light and not salty, so the flavor of the light butter and garlic really came through. The pasta was a nice al dente, and the clams were all fresh.
Here’s what my Ossobuco looked like
I actually wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I got was an amazing, amazing meal. The dish, as you can see, came with a generous side of gniocchi in a sauce that again wasn’t overdone like you see it in other restaurants–it had a wondefully mild flavor.
The veal shank itself was amazingly tender, as if it had been braised for hours. I was actually impressed that even though we were among the only patrons there, I got a piece of meat that tasted amazingly freshly made. The meat literally fell off the bone, and was delightfully tender. Again, the seasoning wasn’t overdone, which allowed the flavor of the meat to shine through.
Speaking of flavor, there was a little fork stuck in the middle of the large shank bone. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but Lisa told me it was for eating the marrow.
I’d actually never had marrow before, but Lisa told me that in her native Taiwan it’s a highly sought-after delicacy. I know in the Bible, marrow is considered one of the choicest foods to have:
“My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5)
With that, I threw caution to the wind and dug in. I have to say it was quite amazing. The flavor just filled my entire being with a wonderful, savory, buttery, slightly sweet essence that felt especially good on a chilly day. I have to say that the moment I tasted the marrow at Bevanda has got to rank among the top culinary experience I’ve had in Great Neck. My compliments to the chef.
After our meal, we were delighted when they brought out a plate of complimentary bicotti.
Unlike the rock-hard breadsticks you’ll find at Starbucks, real Italian biscotti is more like a dense buttery cookie. It was really, really delicious, so much so that I had to order a cup of cappuccino to go with it (which I’m guessing is all part of their nefarious plan!)
The coffee, of course, was excellent.
Service throughout the evening was impeccable. Our water glasses were always full, and the servers were always attentive. When we asked for hot water, they delivered it without question. The servers did tend to mumble a little bit, but I suspect it was because their English wasn’t too strong. They did put fresh cut flowers on every table and throughout the restaurant, which helped make up a little for the decor.
Overall, I’d easily give both the food and the service a 5 out of 5. It was that good. I’ll dock them a little for the decor and that odor, though, which was just enough to keep me from having the perfect experience. 4 of 5 stars.
Great Neck, NY 11021
Mon-Fri 12:00pm – 10:00pm
Sat 4:30pm – 10:30pm
Sun 3:00pm – 9:00pm
Price Range: $$$$ (around $18-$35 for an entree)
Takes Reservations: Yes