Built on the premise, “there is nothing more honest than food,” a new pizzeria/trattoria in the south Hampton area of town serves fresh, homemade pizzas, pastas and a few other classic, casual, Italian items. Onesto, Italian for ‘honest,’ is a homey neighborhood spot literally tucked into rows of modest homes near Hampton and Holly Hills avenues.
The corner restaurant has a small retail area, where people can run in for their carryout orders or buy a slice of house-made tiramisu. To the right is an attractive dining room with about a dozen tables and nice floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the rows of brick homes. The walls are a warm goldenrod, the molded tin ceiling is painted cayenne. The mood is casual and friendly, with co-owner/chef Vito Racanelli adding a little authentic New York pizzeria ambience every now and then as he shouts orders to/from the kitchen.
A small list of appetizers includes fried mozzarella, antipasti, caponata and our choice, arancini ($7). The jumbo rice ball, lightly breaded and deep fried so well I wondered if they even used oil, was crisp, not greasy, and topped with delicious bolognese sauce, Racanelli’s homemade, fresh-roasted tomato sauce laden with ground beef. The ball was peppered with anise seed, which added a little zing to all that rice. Also brought to the table were ‘garlic dots,’ miniature balls of pizza dough, oiled and dotted with fresh garlic.
A Caesar salad ($7) had an excellent dressing—housemade, as are all the dressings and sauces—and a few croutons. Although the flavor was good, some of the bits of Romaine had browned ends, not what you want in a fresh salad.
Pizza is king here, and you can pretty much customize your pie any way you’d like, with toppings ranging from roasted eggplant to ‘Booyah BBQ sauce.’ A few ‘house’ pizzas, though, offer well-considered combinations. We chose the Classic Spinach Pie ($17) and the Neopolitan ($13). You may have noticed that the prices are not peanuts. But these pizzas are made-to-order, with primo ingredients, and it shows in the flavor. Ours were 14-inch ‘smalls,’ but large 18-inchers are available for about $4 more.
The Classic Spinach was excellent, a dry, simple crust (made from organic flour) with full-fat mozzarella melted deliciously on top of the chef’s tasty tomato sauce and dollops of a ricotta-spinach mix dotting the top. Roasted garlic was evident but not overwhelming in the spinach mix, and the cheese topping, which included parmesan and romano, was rich with the fat of mozzarella.
The Neopolitan was a simple pie, sans cheese. The crust was drizzled with olive oil and topped with garlic, plum tomatoes, oregano, onions and bits of fresh basil. It was good, allowing each ingredient to shine.
Orders of lasagna ($12) and eggplant parmesan ($10) exhibited homemade freshness. The lasagna had a wonderful, meaty bolognese sauce and the classic white béchamel sauce between layers. There was some cheese, but it was distributed with a light touch, so the lasagna was not overwhelmed by a cheesy crust, as this dish so often is. It was a good-sized serving, but came solo, no veggie in sight, or even available.
The eggplant parmesan also was not overly cheesy. It had thin, non-greasy, pieces of eggplant layered with tomato sauce and came with a side of spaghetti.
Desserts include a few big cookies, cheesecake and homemade tiramisu ($6). That was our pick, and it was quite good, a layered confection of Amaretto-soaked ladyfingers and rich mascarpone whipped with cream.
Onesto is a fun little urban spot worth trying for a casual dinner out. Two things you can count on here: the portions are big, and the food is fresh.