On a beautiful night, there's Bella Notte. It is a dependable, relaxed restaurant for Italian-American favorites

And, for devotees of Disney's "Lady and the Tramp," for whom the song "Bella Notte" was immortalized at Tony's Restaurant, this local eatery also has very good spaghetti and meatballs. This address has had so many restaurants over the years that you'd think the site is haunted. Some stick around in memory, among them Nel Blu and Luna Rossa.

But Bella Notte improves on its predecessors, streamlining the dining room, offering unpretentious and accommodating service, and most important, having a pretty good idea about what you'd like to eat.

THE BEST

Under the listing for pasta, you'll find zucchini Bolognese, wherein striplets of squash are substituted for tagliatelle or another long pasta and become a surprisingly fine alternative. At minimum, order it to share. Wintry appetites should pick the full-flavored lasagna, layered with meat. The competition comes from linguine with olive oil and garlic or with white clam sauce, penne Angelina with sun-dried tomatoes and chicken, and almost any pasta with those meatballs. Before diving into the farinaceous, you can enjoy the peppery bite of fried calamari arrabbiata and the tender baked clams oreganata. Bella Notte sends out a generous stuffed artichoke, too.

The namesake main dish is a variation on chicken campagnola, fortified with sausages, potatoes, peppers, onions and, in a move that must be to make it all seem very healthful, broccoli. Chicken Siciliano is a tasty rival, with layers of eggplant, prosciutto and mozzarella. Purists may decide to stick with the satisfying eggplant alla Parmigiana, which has the same supporting cast as the chicken a la Bella Notte. Dessert: Italian cheesecake, cannoli, tiramisu.

THE REST

Bland stuffed mushrooms; likewise, the fish of the day, either oreganata or alla Livornese; standard salads; routine shrimp cocktail; over-cooked shrimp scampi-style and broiled veal chop.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Big Night.

-Peter M. Gianotti

If you're looking for quiet dining–without the hustle and bustle of a noisy family restaurant–Bella Notte fits the bill. Located on busy Jackson Avenue in Syosset, less than 100 yards from the railroad station, you might think that the oudoor sounds would overpower the quiet conversation inside. On the contray, with only a dozen or so tables, the restaurant feels peaceful, warm and cozy–oblivious to anything beyond its front door.

Greeted by Richard, the owner, you are invited to share a wonderful Southern Italian menu. The food is all cooked to order, so feel free to order from the extensive bar menu while you wait. My wife asked the waiter if they had Sangria. To her delight, they had homemade Sangria, loaded with fruit. We each had a glass and found it among the tastiest of all the Sangrias we've ever had.

We dined with friends, and so we were able to experience the wide range of choices offered, on both the Appetizers and Entrée sections of the menu.

The Fried Calamari ($13.95) was outstanding–fresh and crispy–with a great sauce to compliment its taste. It was a brutally cold evening, so the Soup of the Night–Minestrone–was the perfect selection. It had a little kick, but wasn't overly spicy. The Caesar Salad ($8.95) was crisp and fresh, with a very tasty dressing. One of my guests ordered the Meat Ball Salad ($12.95) and raved about its great taste. After trying it, her husband ordered it as an afterthought and loved it as well.

As for the entrees, I was partcularly fond of the Shrimp and Clam ala Marechiara ($19.95). The sauce was amazing but the dish was not too heavy to prevent me from ordering my favorite dish, Zucchini Bolognese ($18.95). It's spaghetti-like strands of zucchini, covered in a mouth-watering Bolognese sauce. The dish is unbelievable. Can you imagine a vegetable as a signature dish! My guests loved it so much they went back a few nights later to have it again. The menu also features a full range of chicken, seafood and pasta dishes, along with nightly specials. The Broiled Veal Chop ($39.95) was juicy and cooked to perfection. The Frutti Di Mare ($22.95) is Linguini of your choice (we had Cappellini), smothered with Shrimp, Clams, Mussels and Calamari.

We always make sure we leave room for dessert ($7) at Bella Notte. The Italian Cheesecake is creamy and not too rich adn the Cannoli is a MUST!

A Take-out and Children's menu is always available. All in all, Bella Notte North (Syosset) provides high quality food with outstanding service. As Donna escorts you and your party to the door when you've you completed your meal, you can be sure you'll be seeing her again soon.

-Randy Gordon