A True Eclectic Italian Heaven!
Taormina is located in Commack secretly tucked away in the busy Macy’s Shopping Center on Veteran’s Highway. You may pass by this pizzeria and assume it is an everyday contemporary pizzeria but it is much more. Just as the storefront may be passed by, you may not notice hidden in the back is a wonderful Italian restaurant bustling with regular customers and fine food. This clandestine dining room has a cozy old world charm that will make you feel at home.
Chef and owner Peter Maccarone had a vision for his restaurant to combine affordable dining with fresh ingredients. He personally greets tables and checks in with regulars, making everyone feel comfortable and at home. Mr. Maccarone remembers coming from Italy on August 5, 1968. He had the strong American dream of making a new life in the US. He grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn where good Italian food was always on his mind. He remembers his first job working in an Italian Deli, learning the ropes of pulling mozzarella, drying meat and has fond memories of chasing snails in the rain.
The dining room is elegantly painted with murals of the city of Taormina and the ceiling a calm blue sky. Taormina is a beautiful city located on the eastern coast of Sicily. Although named after this particular city, Mr. Maccarone prides his menu on featuring cuisines from all of Italy’s regions. This extensive menu will make you forget that you ever entered through what you thought was a pizzeria, into this eclectic Italian heaven. The tables are adorned with fresh flowers and bottles of red wine.
Our waitress Barbara started us each off with a glass of Misterio Shiraz. This red wine is from Argentina and is bright with ripe dark fruit and a smooth finish. Taormina features two wine lists. The first is made up of recommended favorites and ranges from $18-$21, the second is more upscale and ranges from $19 to $65. The dual wine lists are a perfect example of Mr. Maccarone’s efforts to make sure that the customer has every opportunity to satisfy their taste buds.
For an appetizer we started with the Seafood Crostini (above). This delicious sampler includes baked clams and shrimp in a scampi sauce over spinach with garlic toasts. The shrimp was sautéed to perfection, tender and fresh, just as the clams were topped with the right amount of Italian breading. The spinach was a contemporary addition to the appetizer and cooked just right with hearty chunks of garlic. The garlic toasts helped us scoop every last drop off our plates!
We then dug into an overstuffed artichoke served Sicilian style (above left). If you are an artichoke lover, you will certainly appreciate the tenderness of this perfectly prepared dish. We also had to try the Cherry Pepper Calamari (above right), hold on to your stockings because this one is H-O-T hot! It is golden fried, sautéed in a spicy sauce and served over a heap of ricotta cheese. For those who don’t value a little kick, dip a little deeper into the ricotta to mellow the thrill.
The pasta course of the night was the Farfalle Boscaiola (below left). This dish has fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, sundried tomatoes, prosciutto and cream mixed with fusilli pasta. “Boscaiola” means “in the woods” in Italian, with this creamy and rustic sauce you can certainly appreciate the translation. The mixture of the prosciutto and mushrooms make it a hearty and filling dish. Being that all the dishes are made to order, you can ask to leave out the prosciutto for a vegetarian option.
The grand seafood course was the Fresh Atlantic Salmon Piccata (above right). The Salmon is sautéed in a lemon caper sauce with onions and artichoke hearts served over asparagus. This sauce has the perfect amount of lemon making it a light and tasty meal. The salmon was excellently paired with a glass of Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio. The wine was dry and crisp with a light refreshing taste.
The Breast of Chicken Veneziana is a house creation (above). It is a lightly battered chicken breast served with asparagus and prosciutto, in a lemon butter sauce. Although it was also a lemon-based sauce, the chicken was a more filling and substantial dish. Be sure to ask your server to recommend a wine to pair with this one!
How often does one stumble into a pizzeria and find a great dining room hiding in the back? How often do you discover a pizzeria that also has a pastry chef baking fresh desserts, cakes and pastries as well? We always feel that after a great meal, you must have dessert otherwise your night just won’t be complete. This dessert menu will definitely complete your experience.
For the traditional dessert lover there is the dueling cannoli (above right). This Cannoli is unique with its half and half appearance. The chocolate end is filled with chocolate mousse and the non-dipped half is filled with traditional cannoli cream. As we all know, you gotta have a little chocolate and vanilla in life. If you are more of a fruity dessert person then you have to try the fruit tart (below left). This dessert is inspired by the tradition of having Italian fruits at the end of the meal. There are peaches, strawberries, grapes, and blueberries served over a smooth delicious crème in a crunchy crumbly tart. The conventional favorite was the sfogliatelle (below right). It amusingly unravels and was soft and sweet covered in powered sugar.
Taormina is Commack’s true Italian gem. Although from the outside it seems like a nice spot for a slice, this surreptitious dining room will leave you feeling like you found the secret garden. If you find yourself shopping in this center, you know the best spot around for dinner (or a quick slice). This restaurant has an extensive menu created by someone that obviously loves food and aims to gratify every belly. You can find all the classic favorites perfectly executed.