Grandmas — they’re not just for pizza anymore. Long beloved as forces of nature, recipe vaults, nostalgia magnets and all-around kitchen geniuses, grandmothers have always captured restaurateurs’ imaginations. And if the eateries below are any indication — two brand-new, one a decades-old fixture — they continue to be reliable sources of inspiration. This weekend, it’s over the river, through the woods and down the LIE to grandmothers’ houses we go.
My Grandmother’s Kitchen (169 Main St., Farmingdale): Chef-owner Jorge Santos is in the kitchen, but it’s his Salvadoran grandmother who inspired this lovely new breakfast and lunch place astride the LIRR tracks in Farmingdale. Her influence may be seen in Santos’ fine Grandmother Benedict with bacon, avocado, tomato and creamy hollandaise ($13.50), along with some omelets, one featuring lobster meat and Gouda cheese ($15.25), another with crab meat and Swiss ($14.25). Formerly the Mexican establishment Chichimecas, Santos’ homey luncheonette comprises 14 tables on two floors inside, although there are eight more in the petunia-bedecked patio out back, where brunch is best enjoyed. Otherwise, an ambitious pancake program boasts a few candy-informed stacks (Almond Joy, Reese’s), although grandma’s blueberry ricotta flapjacks with bright notes of lemon ($13.50) are the hottest item on busy weekend mornings, and for good reason. (More info: 516-586-4289, my-grandmother-s-kitchen)
Szechuan Grandma (2545 Middle Country Rd., Centereach): Apparently no actual grandmas were involved in the making of this new Chinese eatery tucked into a forgotten corner of a nondescript strip center, but it’s worth seeking out nonetheless for its brightly seasoned and authentic takes on mapo tofu ($12.95) and dandan noodles ($6.95), as well as shredded pork in garlic sauce ($13.95), crab rangoon ($4.95) — its filling as sweet as candy — and pork wontons partially submerged in a chili oil pool ($6.95). Also deserving of mention, and perhaps caution too, is the Chongqing spicy chicken ($15.95). The dish’s meat may more closely resemble popcorn fowl than the real deal, but that won’t stop you from gorging on it anyway. The rest is pitch perfect, right down to the ratio of red chili pepper bits to chicken morsels, a bold 2:1 slap. (More info: 631-866-7065, scgrandma.com)
Grandpa Tony’s (101 Althouse Ave., East Rockaway): What’s this place doing on the list? Glad you asked. Though named for the owner’s grandfather, a reliable source confirms that many of the recipes used in this beloved pizza/pasta joint were actually inventions of Tony’s wife. Whoever it was, they knew how to make pizza. The wheaty thin-crusted penne a la vodka pie ($16.95/$23.95) might sound like a mess, but happily — slash somewhat amazingly — it holds together, loaded as it is with peas, generous shavings of prosciutto, mushrooms and more. Also worthy of mention: Grandpa’s gargantuan meatball “bomb” served in a bread bowl ($17.99) and house specialty chicken wings, as flavorful as fried but roasted. The waterside eatery is family-friendly, reasonably priced, and boasts a number of outdoor tables, the best of which may be found on an upper deck overlooking the Mill River. (More info: 516-799-8669, grandpatonysli.com)
Read More: Grandpa Tony’s in East Rockaway and more Long Island restaurants to try this weekend