An Italian Tavern

With fresh salads, warm antipasto and comforting entrees, Osteria Leana is an eclectic favorite.
With fresh salads, warm antipasto and comforting entrees, Osteria Leana is an eclectic favorite.

When driving down South Street in Oyster Bay, a diner can easily miss the small red and white sign hanging off the side of a building, indicating a chic new Italian restaurant behind it. Hidden behind the Knitted Purl and Taste of Mexico deli row of stores, with its Italian-style storefront facing a parking lot, Osteria Leana proves to be a modern hidden gem.

The communal table at the center of the restaurant reminds one of a traditional Sunday dinner in which the entire family crowds around the table to eat. Osteria Leana provides a fine dining experience in a homey yet contemporary setting with its wooden decor.

The simplistic design pairs well with the freshness of each dish. Chef and owner Peter Van Der Mije sources his products from local providers such as Southdown Coffee in Huntington, St. Rocco’s Bakery in Glen Cove and Channing Daughter’s Winery in South Fork, along with many others. The menu changes every few days depending on what Van Der Mije can buy fresh. Van Der Mije’s menu also changes with the seasons.

Osteria Leana offers a variety of signature Italian fare with new twists throughout each course. From the antipasti or appetizer to the primi piatti or pasta course and the secondi or meat course, diners can always expect their seemingly straightforward dishes to be everything but that.

14329869_1478767605471945_1676041768949670089_nThe cioppino soup is described as a simple seafood soup with tomato broth and croutons but it’s so much more. Filled with calamari, clams, scallops, and vegetables, the light soup with vibrant flavors is the perfect start to any meal. The Rottkamp salad is a mixture of green, red, dandelion and arugula greens straight off the Rottkamp farm in Brookville, served with a balsamic House dressing. With just the right amount of tangy dressing, the salad proves to be a fresh start.

The most popular antipasti dish is the calamari alla griglia. Everyone is used to the original fried calamari served with marinara sauce, but Van Der Mije flips the table. Because the spicy olive potato salad and red peppers are made in the same pan as the calamari, the sear from the potatoes rubs off onto the calamari, creating a delicious char flavor with a slight kick.

Osteria Leana boasts an array of cozy classics.

A must-have primi piatti dish is the squash ravioli with burnt butter sage sauce. Orange zest is added to the squash to bring out the ingredients. Perfect for fall, the homemade raviolis are filled to capacity with creamy squash that oozes out when cut into, becoming a new favorite comfort food.

The Freebird Chicken features pan seared chicken served with roasted carrots in a lemon glaze with flakes of Parmesan cheese. With just the right amount of crunch and a hint of lemon, Van Der Mije turns a simple meal into the unbelievable.

Along with its many handmade pasta and meat dishes, Osteria Leana offers many contorni options to complement main dishes. From roasted carrots with honey ricotta and soppressata flakes to Brocolli Fonduta, which is grilled broccoli served warm with Fontina cheese and bread crumbs.

If you have room for dessert, there are many mouthwatering options to choose from. The tiramisu is original yet melt-in-your mouth delectable with the perfect blend of chocolate and coffee flavor. The ricotta cheesecake was refreshing with its whipped apple salad crust in place of the usual graham cracker. If you’re in the mood for hazelnut coffee goodness, try the affogato, hazelnut gelato with a hot shot of espresso poured over the top, making the gelato melt and the two flavors come together as one.

osteriaPair your meal with your choice of red, white or sparkling Italian wine from the restaurant’s extensive wine list. Even if you want to just stop in for a glass, the restaurant has a small bar at the back for a quick drink. Osteria Leana also boasts of its craft beers and non-alcoholic options. The cucumber mint lemonade is refreshing and heavenly with small cubes of cucumber in the drink, showing that Van Der Mije gives exceptional care to everything, including his drinks.

Osteria Leana is located at 76 South St., Oyster Bay; 516-584-6995;

Christina Claus
Christina Claus is the former editor of Port Washington News.

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