There is one thing in common amongst most family operated Italian restaurants, which is a legacy of excellence being handed down from one generation to another, and Sabatino’s is no different. The Union Turnpike Italian eatery, which is owned by two families, is managed by one of the owner’s sons, Robert Portanova. The family owns two additional restaurants, one in Lynbrook called Ubatuba which features fine dining and a pizzeria in Bayside called Gino’s Pizzeria, both of which Portanova manages.
When stepping into Sabatino’s, one immediately notices the remarkably intimate atmosphere not typical of pizzerias. Portanova describes the restaurant as an upscale pizzeria and restaurant, and it is easy to see that by the custom interior design done by Delago Associates. Slanted ceilings and dimly lit lamps greet patrons looking for good eating. “I like something a little more upscale,” Portanova said. “You could bring a date here.”
After a few questions, we were treated to a five-course meal starting with mixed and Caesar salads. Both salads were great, but the Caesar salad’s light dressing stole the show. Following the salads we tested the margherita pizza, which was fantastic. The tomato sauce possessed just the right amount of seasoning to make you go back reaching for a slice again and again.
Next up were the main dishes: veal parmesan, chicken primavera, and the finest of them all, chicken sorrentino. The veal parmesan was no doubt good; however, it is somewhat comparable to what can be purchased from another Italian restaurant with a decent chef. The chicken primavera was topped with various vegetables and had a subtle but nonetheless delicious flavor about it. The best course by far was the chicken sorrentino topped with seasoned spinach.
Although the other dishes were very good, they didn’t hold a candle to the sorrentino. The flavor was robust, the taste was delectable, and all in all it is as good a reason to visit the restaurant as any other.
The chef, simply named “Marco,” prepared the feast and actually came out to give us a warm Italian greeting at the end of the meal. Marco has owned his own restaurants, and has also been on the Food Network. Portanova said he has “never seen someone so professional.
“We’re here to cater to St. John’s,” Portanova said; and he plans to support that statement by giving St. John’s students 10 percent off, and possibly running specials such as “buy two slices, get a free soda.”
While Sabatino’s is a bit pricier than some of its competitors on Union, without a doubt a comparison of quality cannot be made. Sabatino’s comes out on top with honors.