Comfort Italiano – Ciao Bella Review

1310 Broadway

Hewlette, NY 11557 (Long Island)

Phone: 516-569-2654

You’ve heard of southern comfort but at Hewlett’s best kept secret, Ciao Bella in Long Island, comfort Italiano is served as rich as their marinara sauce. Steeped in a long  (and rather notable) history in the kitchen, Chef and owner Freddy Sammarone puts forth his best five days a week at his debut, laid-back haute. Raised in his father’s legendary restaurant, Ennio and Michael’s (previously in the West Village), Chef Freddy practically fulfilled every position in the family operation. Teamed with his wife Dina, his expertise is modestly, yet exquisitely displayed on every plate, seducing diners as they anxiously dig-in.

Antipasto Trio
Antipasto Trio

The antipasto trio, for starters, isn’t your traditional antipasto but stems from tradition. Showcasing his mother’s famous roasted artichoke, Chef  Sammarone dresses it in breadcrumbs and dried cranberries. The artichoke is roasted to “buttah” perfection and melts in the mouth. Cranberries balance the creamy artichoke as the crumbs added great texture to each bite. Savory baked eggplant and clams rounded out the trio – a great backdrop for the next course.

There’s something to be said about simple flavors and textures. When the right ingredients meet and spices mingle pure magic happens. Such is the case with the stunning squid ink linguini topped with a shrimp filled marinara sauce. Sounds simple, but this winning dish thoughtfully highlights each main ingredient. The al dente pasta with the garlic, ink sauce complements the kick of the spicy shrimp marinara. Good luck resisting the urge to lick the plate once done!

Squid Ink Linguini
Squid Ink Linguini

And of course, a meal isn’t complete without ending on a sweet note. Hands down, the Italian ricotta cheesecake is the best dessert offering. Mastered by Dina Sammarone and inspired by Chef’s father, this awe-inspiring slice of heaven is wonderfully moist, has a light cake consistency and manages to have a dark, golden crust. This cheesecake rivals the best of ‘em.

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake
Italian Ricotta Cheesecake

Although, considered a charming neighborhood spot, it’s definitely on the rise. Genuine, inviting people, scrumptious fare, and family influence equals comfort in my book. Ciao Bella is more than a phrase, more than a restaurant – it’s a way of life.


  • Open Wednesday evening – Sunday evening
  • Made to order meals
  • Mindful of food allergies and gluten free requests (with advance notice)
  • Can bring wine but there’s a corking fee
  • No website, just call or walk in!

U.ndeniably W.onderful S.pots in the U.W.S.

Many people know the Upper West Side, U.W.S. for short, for it’s exquisite museums – MOMA, The Museum of Natural History, the Planetarium and of course Central Park. But remember, this is New York City, one of the world’s food mecca’s and so ANY NEIGHBORHOOD in this city is known for it’s food – The Upper West Side included. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling some new dines and known favorites in this neighborhood.

New to me, but well established to locals is Canteen 82. This superb sushi and Shanghai-centric joint offers fresh, organic ingredients. So many imaginative sushi rolls in this eatery – there’s the Mango Fly Roll filled with spicy tuna and yellowtail fish topped with mango and also the Green Dragon Roll stuffed with sweet potato, shitake mushrooms and cucumber draped with avocado.

Green Dragon and Mango Fly Rolls, Canteen82
Green Dragon and Mango Fly Rolls, Canteen82

I cannot say enough about their succulent pork soup dumplings. These babies are similar to traditional dumplings but include a helping of pork broth inside, so your bite bursts with flavor to seduce your taste buds! You must try it at least once in your life. Unforgettable!

Address: 467 Columbus Ave. (bet. 82nd and 83rd )

Another popular place is Gabriela’s Restaurant & Tequila Bar. No passport necessary, but once your walk under the front trellis your are instantly transported to Gabriel’s back patio in Mexico. Authenticity is taken very seriously here. Especially in the coveted moles served – Poblano (pepper and chocolate based sauce) and Pipian(pumpkin seed and almond sauce). I recommend notable dishes: Empanada de Pollo Organico, a turnover filled with organic chicken, sautéed tomatoes and onions and the Pork Al Pastor tacos.

Empanadas de Pollo Organico, Al Pastor Tacos, Shrimp Chimichanga, and Suizas
Empanadas de Pollo Organico, Al Pastor Tacos, Shrimp Chimichanga, and Suizas

And you cannot miss the shrimp chimichanga filled with beans, cheese and tomato sauce (pictured) nor the Suizas enchilada packed with chicken topped with Pico de Gallo, sour cream and Green Salsa or you can opted for a mole sauce instead (pictured). No matter what you order you won’t be disappointed. Be adventurous and accompany your option with their delicious sangria or a fantastic margarita. Looking for a brunch option? Gabriela’s offers an unbeatable $13 spread of dishes every weekend and holiday!

Address: 688 Columbus Ave. (at 93rd st.)

One of my favorite places, The Meatball Shop, is one of the new kids on the block (literally). Recently making their claim to the UWS, Owners, Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow have opened their fifth location in Manhattan (sixth overall) which is all the buzz in town. This time, I tried the mysterious yet legendary Kitchen Sink Salad with a quinoas, turkey meatball topped with homemade pesto and vinaigrette dressing. The salad is made up of the chef’s choice of

Kitchen Sink Salad with Quinoas Turkey meatballs and pesto sauce
Kitchen Sink Salad with Quinoas Turkey meatballs and pesto sauce

greens and veggies. Mine included sliced apples, shredded carrots with raisins, sautéed cauliflower, mushrooms, and beets. All topped with extra mozzarella cheese. Absolutely tantalizing! I’ve reviewed The Meatball Shop in a previous post… if you’re hungry for more, read the full review here.

Address: 477 Amsterdam Ave.

Shakeshak, a glorious burger joint to New Yorkers. Known for it’s heavenly milkshakes, juicy burgers, dogs and addictive fries, this shack is a grill-grub home for museum tourists and natives alike. Cannot miss the DogMeister- a dog topped with Shack cheddar and American cheese sauce and crispy ShackMeister Ale-marinated shallots. Umm-hmm, sounds great, right? Wash it down with a Caramel shake or a featured beer. P.S. Congrats to ShakeShak for it’s newest location in Flatbush, Brooklyn!

Address: 366 Columbus Ave. ( at 77th st.)

Redwood Review

7121 Bethesda Lane

(301) 656-5515

Chicken Sliders

You’re probably like me. I love being surprised, especially when it comes to a restaurant like Redwood in Bethesda, Maryland. Located in an upscale area near DC, it’s highly touted and was chosen as the venue for Bravo’s Top Chef season 7 “restaurant wars” – a legendary event and honor in itself. Needless to say, I was slightly intimidated by its score card. Yet, when I was invited to dine there, I jumped at the opportunity. Surprisingly, my nerves were quickly eased. The food and exceptional service lives up to the reputation but it is unpretentious. Although chic and modern, Redwood focuses on wholesome comfort food and doesn’t take itself too seriously. With delicious appetizers like whimsy fried chicken sliders with a chipotle aioli and lightly fried macaroni balls, I knew I was in good hands. This local favorite renewed my faith in fried calamari as well. In the past, I’ve been highly disappointed by calamari if I order it anywhere else other than an Italian eatery.  But I was more than pleased here. The flavorful, plump “O’s” are crispy and well-seasoned with the perfect thickness – it didn’t stand a chance for survival!

Shrimp and Grits with braised greens

Known for its commitment to serving the best of traditional and contemporary dishes with local ingredients, the kitchen takes homey favorites such as chicken pot pie or shrimp and grits and refines them while evoking memories of  our first bites of these classic entrées. Executive Sous Chef, Sedrick Crawley’s take on custom and modern American cuisine is the perfect balance between familiar and new tastes while leaving diners wanting more. And with an ever-changing menu, it excites me to see what else he has up his sleeve. Chef Sed’s passion for his craft radiates from each plate. Such is the case with the steamed muscle with chorizo and roasted garlic and even the bucatini (a thick pasta dressed with a pork and beef meat sauce finished with the Italian grana padano cheese); both appropriately served in a rustic “mama’s favorite” skillet.

photo 3
Steamed Muscles

Now, when indulging in such great fare, the occasion begs for a 21+ libation. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the impressive, hand crafted drinks and wine list. (A comfort to know.)  I’m a gin girl and my favorite drink was the brilliant Chartreusian 75 which includes yellow chartreuse, simple syrup, and sparkling wine. A tantalizing mixture of sweet and tart…basically it was seduction in a glass.

photo 2
Chartreusian 75

With delicious happy hours, weekly live entertainment and a menu that’ll thrill your taste buds, Redwood is more than a restaurant… it’s an experience for all senses.

Throwdown at Bobby’s Burger Palace

Philadelphia Burger, (source: Bobby's Burger Palace via Google images)
Philadelphia Burger, (source: Bobby’s Burger Palace via Google images)

Although burgers may seem like a common meal choice, it is a fantastic pallet for creativity. As long as you have the essentials: a meat or veggie patty and a bun, you’re pretty much covered, but the possibilities of imaginative toppings are endless. Gone are the days of your standard burger with lettuce, tomato, mayo, ketchup and mustard. Now there are exotic choices like spicy coleslaw, pineapple, avocado, and even chilli. Many burger joints honor the mighty burger, but Bobby’s Burger Palace, BBP, is definitely one that holds the American classic in high esteem. Birthed by the renowned Super Chef Bobby Flay, his palace offers an array to sink your teeth into. The simplistic menu lets diners select from 10 different topping combinations like the Santa Fe with queso sauce, pickled jalapenos generously topped with potato chips, or the Napa Valley with fresh goat cheese, watercress (a type of leafy green), dressed with a tangy Meyer Lemon honey mustard. Any combo can be paired with an Angus beef, ground turkey, or grilled chicken breast patty. One fun element you can add is the “crunchified” option – any burger can be topped off with potato chips. If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the burger of the month. November’s is the Brunch Burger – an indulging mouthful of fried egg, bacon and American cheese, on a sesame seed bun. (No, it does not come with an echocardiogram, but adventure takes risk, right?)


During my visit I paired the Philadelphia burger (provolone cheese, perfectly griddled onions, and succulent hot peppers) with ground turkey. It absolutely rocked my world! I am a lover of spicy food and this lived up to expectations. Far from overcooked, flavorful and quite juicy, my burger was delicious and left me wanting more. It’s hard to imagine Bobby’s winning burgers could get any better, but when you add a side of crunchy, French fries (either regular of sweet potato) the meal is enhanced even more. But wait, it gets even better. The sauces deserve an honorable mention. There are innovative savory sauces like chipotle and jalapeno ketchup, all of which are in keeping with Bobby’s punch-of-flavor personality. Even the fries have their own dipping selections – there’s a secret recipe mayo based dip for the traditional fries where as the sweet potato fries are complimented by a honey mustard horseradish sauce.


Believe it or not, I haven’t even scratched the surface of Bobby’s Burger Palace and that truly excites me. Not sure which burger I will choose next, but I will be sure to try one of their ingenious milkshakes, perhaps the Blueberry-Pomegranate or Mango. Followed by one of the spiked shakes like the Vanilla Caramel Bourbon. With a thoughtful variety of virgin and alcoholic drinks, including a cool frozen cactus pear margarita, BBP knows how to throw down. Then again, would we expect anything less?

Groovy seating ans decor

Budget Breakdown:

  • Philly Burger: 7.75
  • Traditional Fries: 5.00
  • Total: 13.00 w/ tax



  • Online ordering
  • May have long lines but typically goes quickly



11 East Coast locations

  • New York:
    • *Roosevelt Field Mall
      630 Old Country Road
      Garden City, NY 11530
    • Smithhaven Mall
      355 Smithhaven Mall
      Lake Grove, NY 11755

* Location reviewed by Canny Candi

Favorite Long Island Neighborhood Bars/ Lounges

“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.”

– “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” Lyrics by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo

Do the lyrics above sound familiar? It’s the opening to the hit show, Cheers. Who knew that the simple idea of frequenting a local bar would become an insanely popular sitcom? Well, it’s something we’ve been doing for the longest – visiting our favorite spots, ordering “the usual,” and a brew or two. We even catch up on the week’s news be it last night’s game or the front page of the Times. And the thing is, we can’t get enough of our favorite bars. The thought of visiting instantly perks us up and we think about the good times and dishes there. So, in that spirit, I’ve decided to feature some of my favorite local bars and grills on the island. No mater the day or time, good times and good eatin’ are always on the menu…

Croxley’s Ale House and Eatery

(Multiple locations

Whether you’re looking for a hearty bite or rearing to go for game night, Croxley’s Ale House & Eatery’s got you covered. The ale house brews its own beers and has a wide array of national and international selections. With 60 on tap ranging from light to dark lager, angry ales to beer cocktails, Croxley’s is sure to engage the “brew-curious” and brew enthusiasts’ pallets. And for a limited time, there’s a seasonal Croxley’s Pumpkin Ale served with a cinnamon sugar rim. I may not be a “brew guru”, but I’m a “food guru” and their eats are not to be missed! The savory menu has American and English pub classics such as crispy fish and chips, stand out burgers such as the Ale House Burger with bacon, glazed with an addictive 1,000 Island dressing sauce.

But my favorite fare there arethe finger lickin’, 5 napkin needin’ wings! Fried to fall-off-the-bone perfection, the chicken is doused in your choice of mild, medium, hot or BBQ sauces – all of which are tangy and tempts diners to lick the plate. Not into sauces? No problem. The wings are served plain as well. Served in groups of 10, you can literally feast on them all day long.

Best of all Monday – Wednesday the wings are $.10 and unlimited. Ready for more? Thursdays, the $.10 wings go boneless and Saturdays and Sundays the wings are $.20. Still that can hardly be beat. Wings and beer go hand-in-hand when it comes to football. Croxley’s a is great spot to watch fights or the game but get there early, by kick-off, it’s packed and for good reason too!


20 wings : $2.00

Glass of Angry Orchard Cider: $6.00

Total: $8.00

Other tidbits:

  • Multiple locations:
  • Long Island: Franklin Square,* Rockville Centre, Farmingdale, and Smithtown
  • NYC: Brooklyn, Manhattan
  • Multiple huge flat screens
  • Follow on Facebook and Twitter (@Croxley_FS) for news and events

* Location reviewed by Canny Candi


(267 Mineola Blvd.


We’ve all done it while driving. No, not texting. (Shame on you!) I mean, noticed a new restaurant on a street we always travel and say “hmm,… I should try that one day.” Well, that happened to me recently. On a residential corner in Mineola, sits a rompin’ good time within four walls. Applebee’s, known as your neighborhood grill, has nothin’ on Shakers. This no fuss, true neighborhood hangout spot lets the guests set the mood with a decked out touch screen jukebox, and serves up fresh, flavorful bar bites all day long. Locally sourced, the food is delivered daily and is never frozen offering a truly fulfilling made to order experience for diners. All of the selections looked delicious. It was hard to decide, but I ordered a flawless Long Island Ice Tea, and Chicken on a Stick, three Panko crusted breasts on skewers and a side of perfectly golden French fries. What really won me over was the chipotle mayo served as a dipping sauce.

It was just enough spice to add some south of the border zest to the whimsy chicken dish. Next time, I can’t wait to taste their finger lickin’ Colossal Wings or their Frito Pie!

This hidden jewel’s popularity has grown in the short six months it’s been in Mineloa. That’s not surprising because it has so much to offer: a legendary Level 15 Wing eating challenge, guests can play “bar tender” on Sunday’s with the Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar, live music on the weekends and Way Back Wednesday (a weekly blast from the past with a themed menu and stellar prices based on the decade, i.e. 80’s night). And no local joint could proudly hold the label of “bar” without honoring footballs nights. Shakers offers $5 Football meal deals and drinks specials every Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday game nights. It’s so easy to order a round of beer and wings, watch the game and root for your team without breaking your budget. If you’re looking for a low-key place to unwind from a busy day or somewhere to catch up with friends, Shakers is your place.

Meal: $15.00

Other tidbits:

  • Daily happy hour: 3pm – 7pm
  • Outdoor seating
  • Like on FB (site listed above) and follow on Twitter for promos and event news (@ShakersMineola)
  • Free local delivery
  • Comfy leather seating in lounge
  • High top bar seating
  • Multiple huge flat screens