Friday, June 19, 2009

Italian Buffet Nights at Saporito, Wantagh, New York

In my never ending quest to find buffet restaurants of different cuisines, I got very excited when I saw an advertisement in a community newspaper for the grand opening of an Italian pizzeria restaurant named Saporito in the village of Wantagh on Long Island in New York. At the top of the ad was a box that said "Dinner Buffet" on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and for the unbelievable price of $7.95. On the other side of the page was a box that said "Lunch Buffet" weekdays for $6.95. This ad was a page of specials and they appeared to be "grand opening specials". I had to find out more. A quick web search came up with a number of restauants around the country with the same name, though they did not appear to be part of a chain. Apparently this is a common name for Italian pizzeria restaurants. Translated saporito in Italian means "tasty". I did find a web site but it mentions everything about the restaurant but a buffet. Before it was gone I had to go and try it for myself.

This is a newly opened Italian take out restauant with booths and tables set up in the front of the restauant. Its main buisness seems to be pizza and some very nice looking pizza was being served at the counter to the number of people who were coming in for take out orders. There is a small parking lot in front of the restaurant with enough spaces to accomodate the few tables inside. The windows of the restaurant are covered in signs about their specials. Not one mentions "buffet". We went in and walked to one of the empty tables and sat down. There were a few tables occupied around the restaurant with more people at the counter ordering take out. In a short instant we were acknowledged and in a minute or two later we were asked if we needed menus or were we ordering the buffet. The buffet was located at the side of the restaurant between two soda cold cases on a shelf. There were five countertop hot servers and a soup server on the shelf. Small, but adequate. Drinks are from the soda fountain or bottles from the cases. Drinks are not unlimited and are not included with the buffet. There is a sign that says that they are waiting for their license to serve wine.

We went up to the buffet. There we found chicken soup, spagetti, tomato sauce (seperated from the spagetti in its own tray in the spagetti hot server), chicken francias, chicken with brocolli, meatballs, and sausage with peppers and onions. In front of the soup server there were short stacks of china plates, bowls, and silverware rolled in paper dinner napkins. There are also napkin dispensers on each table. The server brought a basket of garlic bread and very nice rolls to our table.

Of course, I tried everything. The food is what is expected at local Italian restauants. One of the best ways to judge an Italian restaurant is the tomato sauce. Is it too sharp? Is it to sweet? This tomato sauce was just right. The spagetti was kept in a light oil so that it would not stick together. You put the sauce on the spagetti yourself as you like. The chicken francias was good. The batter was not overly eggy and the sauce did not have a sharp taste of wine. The taste was good. I have had the dish made better in other restauants but it was good. The chicken mixed with brocolli was a sauteed dish of small chunks of chicken with sauteed down brocolli with a light garlic and oil sauce. This was another tasty dish. The pork sausage with peppers and onions was cooked in oil. There were both red and green pepper slices and these were cooked with strips of onion. The sausage was sliced into thin pieces and the dish was well cooked. It tasted very good. It is served with the oil that it is suateed in and there was a bit too much oil that the food sat in. This was fine for the taste, but I would have preferred that it had been less oily. The meat balls were the usual Italian take out restauant meatballs. They were served in tomato sauce and the perfect and quintessential complement to the spagetti. They were as good as any meatballs that I have had at similar restauants or in real Italian meatball hero sandwiches. (Hero sandwich = hoagie, poorboy, sub. In NY they are hero sandwiches.) There is no pizza on the buffet. Too bad because their pizza was very tempting. This was the Wednesday night buffet. On Thursday night the dishes will change - for example pasta ala vodka.

There is no dessert included with the buffet. I don't need it but if you have to have it there is a dessert menu that you can order from to supplement your buffet (at additional cost). There is also no salad bar - again, I did not need or miss that.

Keep in mind the price of this meal. It is $7.95 each - for all. Compare this to any other buffet price. Compare this to Cici's at $5.99 to which this excels for what you are getting. This is a small restaurant and they are new. By the size and the number of items, this is not what the average buffet goer is going to expect - but that is ok. For the money, you are getting a great meal. I have paid more for lunch at some menu restaurants.

The restaurant was very clean. The serving trays were kept an eye on. They were tended, refilled, and stirred. Dishes were eventually cleared from the table, but they seem to just be getting used to the idea of the buffet (and they are new). I think that a crowd of typical buffet diners would throw them. I have two suggestions to the management. One is that they need to make sure that more clean dishes need to be kept out next to the buffet 0r replaced more regularly. The other suggestion is that when new food is placed into a serving tray it cannot be poured on top of what is there or just be mixed into (which is what they did) but that the proper way to do this is to take what is in the current tray and put it on top of the new food that is going in.

I was very happy with my find. But the big question - is this just a special offer or will it remain? It will remain - every Wednesday and Thursday night. And weekdays for lunch! Wonderful!

I do not understand why - other than the ad in the community paper - that the buffet is a big secret. Why no sign? Why nothing inside the restauarant about it? Why nothing on the website? I can never understand why a restauant looking to bring in business in these difficult times does not make their great features well known. Yes, they ran an ad, but had I not seen the ad - and I am sure many have not - if I drove past the restaurant nothing outside (or inside for that matter) would say "BUFFET". To the observer, outside, it is just another pizza restaurant, of which, in this area there are many.

I will definitely be back! I recommend that you try Saporito Pizzeria Restaurant's buffet (either lunch everyday during the week or dinner on Wednesdays and Thursdays) if you are on Long Island or traveling through Long Island. (This is on the way to the Hamptons - not nearly as far east, but on the way!) Take note that the hours of the dinner buffet are from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm and hte lunch buffet is served from 11 am to 3 pm. The restaurant's address is 1378 Wantagh Avenue, Wantagh, New York. Their phone number is 516-221-7773. They have a website with no mention of the buffet but photos of the restauant and take out menus. The website is linked on the side of this page.

Finally, an Italian Buffet I can get too! Mangia!


SkippyMom said...

So glad you liked it - the food does sound yummy. Nice descriptions.

I was a little worried at first because there were so few offerings I thought that might put you off.


Robert A said...

Few items is not so crucial when there is a good assortment in what is presented - as there is here.

One of the best buffets that I recently found is one of the smallest buffet restaurants that I have ever been to. (See Europa Buffet - & second visit article coming up in a few weeks)

Robert A said...

The nights that the buffet is offered here seem to vary now. A recent ad that actually did mention the buffet said it is now Sunday and Monday nights. Another ad said call to find out about when the buffet is offered. So - do call first.