Torrisi Italian Specialties NYC
Call us bandwagon jumpers-on if you want to, but we'll just come out and say it: Torrisi Italian Specialties NYC is serving some of the best classically prepared Italian food in the city right now. The cozy, casual deli-by-day/fixed-menu-restaurant-by-night spot opened its doors about six months ago on the northern edge of Little Italy, a stretch of downtown Manhattan we've long ago ceded to the tourists. Torrisi NYC is charmingly designed to look like nothing special, in a nostalgic sort of way–old fashioned deli counter, front window and walls lined with Italian canned goods and such–but the resumes of chefs Richard Torrisi and Mario Carbone suggest otherwise, both having done stints at the likes Cafe Boulud, A Voce, and Del Posto.
After reading several flat-out raves from New York Magazine, Time, and Serious Eats, we finally went to Torrisi Italian Specialties NYC last week. And though the menu varies nightly–and is fixed, with your only choice being meat or fish for your second–we can say with confidence that if your meal is even half as good as the one we devoured, you're going to love it here.
First come the antipasti. Five of them. Plus the best slice of garlic bread we've possibly ever had. These are small portions, certainly, so it's not a full-out gorging at Torrisi NYC, but how much fun is it to be served five different things to get started? The correct answer is: so much fun.
Every starter was a winner at Torrisi NYC, but we were particularly wowed by the chewy, heavenly Warm Mozz, infused with milk thistle cream and sitting in a puddle of nutty DaVero olive oil. So good is this bowl of cheese, in fact, that it's currently in contention for best dish of the year. Also outstanding was the two-bite slice of Frank's Salami Bread, topped with baccala (salt cod), and cured lemon, all the flavors and textures working beautifully together. The small bowl of Escarole with fava beans and Jody's pecorino was also pretty perfect. A dish of Corned Tongue, with cucumber and pickled garlic, and a serving of Migliorelli Rabe alla Panama, the bitter greens punched up by salty scallops rounded out the antipasti feasting.
Then it was on to the pasta, and our second favorite dish of the night at Torrisi NYC, firm Fusilli covered in a dirty duck ragu–lots of liver makes it "dirty"… and incredibly rich and delicious–and doused with brandy. We opted for the fish as our main, Blackfish with Fulton Chowder, and though this was definitely a first-rate plate, the Heritage Pork Chop with vinegar peppers being wolfed at other tables looked even better.
After a delightfully sour sampling of Rhubarb Sorbet at Torrisi NYC, served classic Italian-ice-style in one of those flimsy paper cups, our server delivered a plate a five sweet treats, ranging from a bit of Mast Brothers chocolate to a moist and spongy Rainbow Cookie (with fennel, maybe?) to a hunk of old-school Cracker Jack peanut brittle. Downed with a cup of dark, black coffee, it was a terrific way to end a terrific meal.
Torrisi Italian Specialties NYC details
Torrisi Italian Specialties is located on Mulberry Street between Prince and Spring Streets. From 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Torrisi serves lunch, which includes what is rumored to be the best Turkey Sandwich in Manhattan. At 6:00 p.m. the fixed-menu dinner begins, and runs until 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and until 11:00 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Monday. There are 20 seats at Torissi, and no reservations. We got on line outside at around 5:40, and were seated immediately, but by 6:30 or so the wait list began. For more information and a look at tonight's menu, please visit the Torissi Italian Specialies website.