Wednesday, June 2, 2010

NY Restaurant Review: Torrisi

And to think, if Mr. AT had stayed in his old Nolita apartment just a bit longer, we could have been mere steps away from a totally kick ass Italian restaurant instead of the slew of craptastic Little Italy red sauce joints. Torrisi didn't open its doors until about 8 months ago - long after my departure - so this weekend was my first chance to dine there.

It's seriously tiny, seating only about 20 people at a time, which for a well-regarded NY restaurant means serious waits. Fortunately they're willing to take your cell number, so we popped over to Epistrophy on Mott St., an adorable little wine bar. Forty-five minutes later we were seated in the quaint, old-school dining room. At Torrisi, there's only one menu on offer - a multi-course, reasonably priced $50/pp Italian feast that changes nightly. Your only choice is between two entrees, typically a meat and a fish.

I must say I love this trend of low key restaurants a la Ad Hoc and now Torrisi that take all the decisions out of the equation and just make one meal really, really well each night. Without fail, these establishments cultivate a you're-at-home-but-better vibe, complete with adorably mismatched dishware. Of course, that could all go terribly wrong if the food is bad, but nary a one of the multiple dishes we sampled was anything less than fantastic!

We started bruschetta and homemade mozzarella - simultaneously creamy and chewy, floating in a pool of olive oil with a heavy dose of salt that just made it all the more scrumptious. Seriously, I want to marry this mozzarella (sorry Mr. AT, it's just that good).

Next up was a fennel and sausage salad of sorts and lightly fried spring onions. The licorice flavor of the fennel, which I sometimes find too much, was an appealing foil to the rich sausage slices. And who knew that essentially tempura spring onions were so darned incredible? Light and crisp with none of the leaden density of onion rings, I could have eaten the whole plate of onions. The spicy remoulade was a decadent accompaniment. Definitely a much more nuanced and compelling take on a bloomin' onion!

The portion sizes were perfect, too. For four people each dish was enough to get the full experience of the flavors without filling up too much for the next delight to hit the table.
The pasta fagioli with miso and maitakes was an unusual combination of flavors for Italian cooking, but worked just the same. The miso broth was wonderfully light and made for a particularly comforting pasta dish, akin to a much more exciting chicken noodle soup. The beans were especially wonderful - huge and hearty but again not overly filling. This is what I want next time I'm under the weather, darling hubby take note!

We all four opted for the island duck and rabe with mulberry mustard over thefish, which was actually skate and not the tilefish listed on the board. Duck is not my favorite protein - too often it's overly fatty for me. But this duck was juicy without being a blubbery mess. The crisp bread crumbs balanced the tender, sweet meat, and I devoured every last bite despite the many dishes that came before it.

Such a remarkable feast wouldn't be complete without dessert. For the final course, Torrisi served up a plate of Italian treats, including cannoli, brittle, tricolors, nutty chocolates, and cream puffs. All were very good, but my personal fave were the tricolors. They were so juicy with the flavors of of amaretto and almond - my kind of combination. I might just need to make some of these myself - here's a recipe I found if you want to replicate!

So if it's not obvious, I can simply not say enough good things about Torrisi. Great atmosphere, great food, great price (for NY at least) My only complaint? I prefer places that take reservations, but I can live with waiting for food this good!

Sigh...can someone please open a place exactly like this in my current hood?

Torrisi Italian Specialties
250 Mulberry St (at Prince St.)
New York, NY 10012

Torrisi Italian Specialties on Urbanspoon



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