(Mozzarella) stick to your guns: 3 Brothers Pizza Cafe

First thing, a little bit of cookbook housekeeping! I’ve received many, many, many offers to test recipes. I’ve been a little overwhelmed, but I’m currently in talks with my publisher to find a solution that can include as many of you as possible in the testing of this upcoming book.

Now, to a saucy rundown of a semi-local vegan gem of a restaurant. For some time I’ve heard great reviews of 3 Brothers Pizza Cafe in Rockville Centre and it’s quirky vegan Italian menu, but like many New Yorkers without a car a trip into the wilds of Long Island often feels nigh impossible. On the rare chance we borrow a family car it’s the typical Long Island shopping litany: Ikea, Target, Trader Joe’s, and maybe a thrift store to shake things up. But last week’s 100+ degree heat did not get in the way of one last stop and a whole new world of creamy red sauces and vegan cheese melted to perfection.

A few blocks from the strip-mall gauntlet of Sunrise Boulevard, 3 Brothers has an unassuming black awning, but the promise of vegan pizza in neon on the front window (and new gluten-free offerings), will make you take a double take. Through the sweltering parking lot we enter a lengthy back hallway that opens to a modest pizza restaurant dining room, past the usual counter cases of notably standard (mostly non-vegan) offerings of stromboli and pizza wheels. Sitting down is when the magic happens; the upbeat server chimes “Vegan menu?”, and of course you nod yes (there’s a standard non-vegan menu, but only once did I see someone ask for it). And on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon it appears that nearly everyone else in the nearly-full dining room is taking advantage of that vegan menu too; everywhere I turn I see the telltale shreds of melted vegan cheese and a nearly sculptural pile of fried mushrooms teetering on a platter on the table next to us.

Even after countless vegan dining experience, it was still a thrill to sit down to an entire menu of classic Italian-American cuisine–from the Caesar salad to the calzones–entirely free of limitations. An new problem now unfolds…no asking “no butter on the pasta please”, but instead “please help me decide which of a dozen pastas is the best”? Or will it be the eggplant rotini or the seitan scallopini instead? Good problems. Delicious problems.

Everything is worth trying. I am rendered helpless when presented with a platter of oyster mushroom “calamari” encased in a lacy golden batter served with both a light tartar sauce and the requisite marinara and lemon wedges. If mozzarella sticks are your thing, run immediately to 3 Brother’s; they’ve perfected the art of frying Daiya, rendering it hot, gooey and stretchy while encased in toothsome breadcrumb armor. I’m not much for fake cheese (gimme those friend mushrooms any day), but those sticks were an achievement in vegan comfort food.

We skipped the pizza and headed straight for entrees. John loves red sauced “parm” above all other Italian dishes, and their tender golden cutlets of seitan smothered in marinara sauce, a smattering of perfectly melted vegan cheese and nut parmesan crumbles was by the far the best vegan rendering we’ve tasted. My entree of seitan piccata, swathed in lemony sauce with a hint of mustard atop creamy whipped potatoes and spinach rivals my favorite dish at Candle 79; it seems almost too sophisticated to be enjoyed dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Even the table bread was memorable: chewy crusty rolls baked on the premise served with massive ball of vegan butter made it challenging not to fill up too soon.

Not shown are the spoils from our second visit that week: yes, guilty as charged. The tangy cool Caesar salad, bulging tofu crab cakes, an elegant brick of vegetable lasagna and the silky perfection of the penne ala vodka sauce (cashew cream based) studded with bits of tempeh bacon drew us out to Long Island yet again, even without the Ikea trip. The portions are generous and you can look forward to happy leftovers. I’d recommend that if you opt for a creamy pasta entree either split it with a friend or don’t load up on appetizers (but unlikely, because it’s a crime to miss out on the oyster mushrooms or salads) so that it can be eaten on the spot; my penne ala vodka didn’t heat up to it’s previous creamy glory the next day, though still tasty and filling.

Public transportation to 3 Brother’s is probably possible (there’s a railroad station within a 20-something minute walk and a little bit of Internet foo will find you the way there), and a walk sounds reasonable after this rich meal. But I’ll probably reserve my cravings to the occasion car ride (best me and those mushrooms remain long distance friends). It’s great to know either way we have such a treasure in our Long Island back yard, a great restaurant that makes vegan food into delicious cuisine that’s accessible to everyone.

3 Brothers Pizza Cafe

212 N Long Beach Rd
Rockville Centre, NY 11570

(516) 766-3939