For a review this week – I visited Torrisi Italian Specialities on 250 Mulberry Street New York, NY. Did any of you roll your eyes upon seeing Mulberry Street? Well, don’t. This is not your typical Mulberry type joint, where the gravy flows like wine, and the macaroni instinctively flock like the salmon of the capistrano. Similar to how Goodfellas stands out among the gazillion commercialized mobster flicks, Torrisi is a tad unique in comparison to it’s Italian culinary neighbors. It’s even a little more removed from the hustle and bustle of touristy Mulberry. And if I’m sounding stuffy, I don’t mean to; these are just observations. A good ol’ reliable Mulberry Street restaurant can still hit the spot on many an occasion – for me anyway. (Elana – feelings on a future post to declare Mulberry’s most satisfying joint?)
On this night, I am here to celebrate my good friend Mark’s engagement. My other friend meeting us, Justin, is late (typical), however it all works out. There is an hour wait to sit down at Torrisi, so we put our name down and head down the street to the Spring Street Lounge for some cold PBR . Odd, unconfirmed fact about Pabst – did you know, according to Wikipedia, that it was named “America’s Best” at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893? Do you even care? Well, they seem to still be proud of this fact (see below):
O.K., in to the restaurant. A slight downer here – Torrisi would not let me use my camera flash inside so I have no raw footage to share with all of you (the photos you see are not ours). But it’s a cool, cozy venue inside with a dimly lit interior and slightly intimate arrangement of small wooden tables and booths. The walls are a blend of exposed brick with built in, surrounding shelves stacked with olive oil, flour, and other packaged goods – after all, this place does in fact moonlight as a sandwich shop during the daytime (or does it moonlight as a restaurant in the evening? Anyway, you get it). Above you, are lovely tin ceilings.
Every night, Torrisi offers a set menu. Tonight features a 5 course meal for 50 bones – the details of which are written on a centrally located chalkboard for all to view. According to their website, “Our nightly menu is our only offering for the table; there are no menu substitutions available for vegetarians, children, or dietary restrictions.” Talking the talk for sure. Walking the walk? Also, affirmative.
For the table of 3, they present a healthy glob of their homemade mozzarella in a bowl filled with davero olive oil, and sprinkled with sea salt. The homemade mozzarella is still warm, extremely fresh, and delicious. The three amigos methodically stab at it until it is gone, plunging the complimentary bread into the remnants of the davero.
Next is a pile of thinly sliced cucumbers in a vinegar/mustard type sauce that have a wonderfully bitter, salty and sweet taste – all in one. Roughly simultaneous to the serving of the cucumbers is some corned lamb’s tongue, with radish cole slaw. My buddy Mark was a tad uncomfortable taking down the ol’ lamb’s tongue, yet neither myself nor Justin were crazy about it either.
Next up was a crispy shrimp salad which is very well done. True to its name, it is indeed crispy. The small baby shrimps are mixed with white corn and chillies. Altogether, it makes for an ingenious tag team of salt and spice. The crowd went wild for this one.
For a pasta dish, Torrisi prepares Fusilli with “dirty” duck ragu. This, too, is very good. The spiraled Fusilli locks in the sauce; an oily, meaty, slightly spicy and sausage tasting goop of glory. I’m impressed, as is the group.
There are two choices for an entree. The married and soon-to-be married guys chose Skate Francese, a lightly breaded fillet of fish with chives, in a garlic and lemon sauce with a nice, kicking aftertaste. A hint, just a hint, of cream too. Very good. I chose the Barbeque Lamb with corona beans and celery. This is the better meal of the two (the boys agree). It’s fantastic. The lamb is tastily fatty and rare, with a wonderful vinegar based barbeque sauce.
A dessert dish is finally passed around; cannolis, tricolored cookies, and miniature cheesecakes. All very good and, perhaps thankfully, of modest portion.
The bathroom, like the inside, was tight but workable. Nice wallpaper, and some (autographed perhaps?) pictures of Enrico Caruso, to keep you company should you feel lonely.
They also have a nice wine and beer list. Overall, Torrisi receives high marks for ingenuity, originality and taste. A slightly tight, but character-rich interior, with dishes that should satisfy those looking for a smart, satisfying-without-having-to-unbutton-your-pants, experience.
Movie Equivalent – Heat
Here is a link to photos of Torrisi specialties via Foodspotting
Top photos of Torrisi from nymag.com