Dining Out visits Isola


Families and good food really are the most important things for the owners of Isola Trattoria in East Quogue.

Not only is the restaurant very family friendly, it is also owned and operated by three close families: Carlo and Dana Illiano and their three children, Marica, 17, Yvana, 14, and Antonio, 8; Carissa and Mark Garabedian and their three young kids, Ashley, 14, Sophia, 7, and Mark, 5; and Candy Mossa and her three children, T.J., 9, and 5-year old twins Aidan and Jackson. And when it comes to apportioning the workload, all hands are on deck, from adults to children, at this Mediterranean-themed restaurant.

In a recent interview, Chef Carlo Illiano and two of his co-owners, Ms. Garabedian and Ms. Mossa, talked about the new venture at the East Quogue address that was formerly home to The Point. The three families have known each other for many years, according to Ms. Garabedian.

“My husband Mark and I met Carlo about seven or eight years ago when he was working in his pizzeria in Riverhead,” Ms. Garabedian said. “Since then we’ve flirted with the idea of opening up a restaurant together.”

Trained in Italy more than 20 years ago, Mr. Illiano honed his preparation of Mediterranean cuisine at Tempio del Sapore and Sartolillo Miriscola in Naples before opening his own restaurant, Sergio’s in Riverhead.

Ms. Garabedian is no stranger to the restaurant business either. Her family owns the Morada Grille in Boca Raton, a successful nuevo cuisine eatery. Additionally, she said she can rely on her waitress experience “from since I was 15.”

Along the way, good friend Ms. Mossa joined forces with the Garabedians and the Illianos. She said she is very comfortable as a part-owner of Isola Trattoria since her family has been in the deli business for years.

Once the partners got serious about finding a location to open a restaurant, they lucked into the perfect spot when The Point closed its doors last season. “We know the history of this spot has been tough,” Ms. Garabedian said. “But we have the right niche here and the perfect combination of great food, good location and a wine and beer license, so I think we’ll do well.”

Isola, which means island in Italian, just opened in the last month and will have a grand opening celebration soon. The owners said they are gearing up for what is sure to be a busy summer for their new venture, which seats 50 diners inside and 40 outside.

“We knew there was a need for a good, casual, comfortable restaurant around here,” Ms. Garabedian said. “It’s a great place to come, with or without kids, for great pizza, pasta and just plain good food.”

Citing the $21 veal saltimboca as his favorite item on the menu, chef Illiano said that the restaurant also serves his freshly baked bread every day with a sampling of homemade dipping sauces. Additionally, the restaurant serves a variety of specialty pizzas, pasta and Mediterranean favorites, as well as a kids’ menu with plenty of choices, and a variety of dessert options.

Open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, Isola Trattoria features a full menu available for lunch and dinner. There are six salads to choose from, such as the mixed greens and goat cheese Mediterranea for $9; an $8 caesar; or trio salad, made with escarole, arugula, pecans, gorgonzola and cranberries, for $10.

There are also a number of antipasti on the menu. Baked clams are available for $9; calamari alla griglia, grilled calamari with pancetta and scallions, goes for $11; and insalata di mare, a seafood salad featuring calamari, mussels, shrimp, scungilli and scallops is priced at $14.

As can be expected at any good trattoria, there is also a large selection of baked dishes, such as homemade stuffed shells for $11; seafood, like shrimp fra diavolo for $21; and veal and chicken dishes, like veal parmigiana for $20 and chicken parmigiana for $18.

One of the most popular items on the menu so far has been the selection of specialty pizzas, like the margharita for $11, the quattro formaggi for $15 and the Isola—which topped with goat cheese, sun dried tomato and artichoke hearts—for $15.

Kids also get a wide selection of Italian options, like pasta and chicken parmigiana, as well as traditional American fare such as hamburgers, chicken fingers and French fries. Items on the children’s menu are priced at $6 and $7 for diners 12 and under.

A large number of desserts are also offered for $7. Choosing between such items as a mixed berry cheesecake, chocolate soufflé, cannoli and more could prove to be a difficult decision for those with a serious sweet tooth.

Not on the menu, but very important nonetheless, according to the owners, are good service and a comfortable atmosphere. According to Ms. Mossa, at least one owner will always be on the premises to ensure that diners are enjoying the food and the experience at Isola Trattoria.

“Customer service is very important to us and we want to make sure our customers know that,” Ms. Mossa said. “We really put our hearts into this place and we want to make sure we succeed.”

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