Casa Rustica has endured hurricanes, recessions and the occasional celebrity as it heads into its twenty-fifth year of serving Smithtown residents on Main Street.
The father-son Gambino team run the restaurant, plan the menus, pick the wine and even jar the tomatoes. They just finished jarring 20 cases of fresh tomatoes to use for winter diners.
Father Mimmo began the restaurant back in 1986 and credits Hurricane Gloria for turning people onto his food, since post-storm power outages led hungry Smithtown residents to Casa Rustica's doors in search of a hot meal.
Son Benne is new to the front end of the business after running the kitchen for years. He calls the food "New Rustic Italian."
Benne's father was born in Sicily and an underlying peasant theme is depicted in the menu. Benne's stint in culinary school lends a gourmet element to the simple "peasant" food, which reveals itself in dishes like prosciutto wrapped figs.
Benne is the proud father of two girls and pictures of his daughters greet guests as they enter the restaurant. There is a small bar in the front and the whole restaurant is crisp and clean, the décor is classy but modern. A long walk down a ramp leads guests into the main dining room that houses about 14 tables.
The dining room is elegant with dark walls with white inlay and white rafters. Oversized vases on the tables house silk sunflowers and photographs of the Mediterranean seaside dot the walls. The chairs are dark wood with plush fabric and the restaurant has a very warm feel. The staff is friendly and attentive but not bothersome.
To celebrate their anniversary, Casa Rustica is hosting live jazz on Thursday nights and monthly wine tasting events. To help diners during the recession they are offering 20% off the wine list on Friday and Saturday nights and a price-fix menu.
For $30, diners get a choice of an appetizer, a main course, coffee and dessert and for an extra $5 they add a glass of house wine.
For $50, this family eatery serves guests a shelled two pound lobster dinner, which includes a choice of any appetizer and coffee and cake. For $60, guests can up the ante to a three pound lobster.
An occasional celebrity breaks bread at the Gambino restaurant – Ralph Macchio, Bill Joey and Barry Bonds, just to name a few, have visited the Smithtown restaurant.
Casa Rustica is both worldly and local. Benne Gambino buys his fish off a monger in Huntington because he likes to support local businesses, but the restaurant also offers an extensive wine list from around the globe.
Check out our latest review of Casa Rustica.