We fell in love with Torrisi Italian Specialties the first time we went. So we knew it wouldn’t be long before we went again for a special occasion. We discovered the slightly less pricey lunch 7 course prix fixe for $65 and would do a repeat with my Dad for Father’s Day this year. The menu is seasonal, so our meal had no repeat items except the classic mozzarella. Please note you may not get the same meal but it is guaranteed to be amazing.
2/3/2013 First Visit
Torrisi Italian Specialties is one of those tiny little hot spots with seating for about 18 people. Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, alums of Batali and Boulud, are providing a casual prix fixe menu of refined Italian classics. The courses are served on mis-matched China to create the essence of grandma’s house. Only the dishes are quite carefully chosen to perfectly complement each dish…
We’d been waiting around to get into this place for at least a year, hoping the hype would die down. They have an online calendar reservation system allowing booking one month in advance, so I went ahead and used it. Let me tell you this place is well worth every bit of the wait. For starters, the vibe is casual, friendly and the space is ‘cosily’ small. The windows are covered with Italian lace and the walls are lined with Italian specialties. There are a total of 7 2-tops in an L shape and one larger table in the front window. The menu is written on a chalk board wall above the bathroom door. The kitchen is located downstairs behind the mirrored banquette.
It’s amazing how they pull off such amazing things in this tiny space. We watched as the sous chef prepared every dish in the dining room from a small convection oven. We had the first reservation and watched as people arrived in 15 minute intervals until the place reached capacity. By the time we left, two people were prepping meals on the bar.
The 7 course menu changes daily, but I’ve noticed the favorites seem to stay on the menu with a few seasonal tweaks. At $65, we felt the portion size was reasonable and we left satisfied, not overstuffed. The meal begins with two lovely slices of lemon to cleanse your hands. After that, I carefully noted every ingredient our server described, as the menu doesn’t really let on how complex the dishes really are…
Warm Mozzarella, Davero Olive Oil
Made to order and Served with Italian Garlic Toast
Surf & Turf Carpaccio
Tuna Carpaccio, Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Pork Belly, Razor Clam, Bone Marrow & Sliced Garlic with Anchovy Emulsion
Grilled Arancini, Fermented Broccoli Rabe
A Grilled Rice Ball, Broccoli Rabe Sauce and Sliced Radishes
Housemade Potato Chips, Smoked Potato & Foie Gras Layered with Sliced Apple, Pickled Onions, Celery Leaf and Apple Viniagrette
Pasta Rings & Calamari
Pepperoni & Pepperocini Sauce with Pasta Rings and Octopus
Sheep’s Milk Gnocchi, Chestnut Ragu
with Bacon & Sage
Swordfish, Pickled Winter Caponata
Swordfish with Mint, Red Pepper, Fennel, Smoked Carrot and Multi-Colored Eggplants
Veal Wrapped with Bacon, Sweetbreads, Sauerkraut, Fried Potato, Apple & Polenta
Italian Cookie Plate
Ricotta Cannoli, Peppermint Truffle, Tri-Color, Celery Cookie, Beet Strudel
We decided to get one each of the pasta course and the entree so we could try everything on the menu. If you are only doing one, pair the veal with the gnocchi and the swordfish with the calamari. Which is better? It depends on whether you are looking for something light or heavy. Although we both agreed the swordfish was a highlight of the meal. We were also loving the smoked potato, foie and apple dish as well as the warm mozzarella with the garlic bread. I am not a giant fan of Italian cookies, but they did a nice job twisting each one with unique ingredients. We’d do this again, even if the menu were exactly the same. They do offer a 20 course Chef’s Tasting Menu for $160. Maybe one day we’ll give it a try, but we were plenty happy with 7!
We decided to treat my Dad to Torrisi for Father’s Day. He deserves it! And we needed an excuse to return to this most incredible place. Once again, we got some really incredible food photos and really the pictures speak 1000 words. This time, I nabbed a picture of the menu from the wall. Again, it doesn’t provide the true complexity of each dish but that is the charm!
Warm Mozzarella with DaVero Olive Oil
Peas & Buttermilk with Fava Beans, Fresh Herbs and Frozen Pea Puree
Salmon Tartare, Roe & Everything Blinis (Yes, like Everything Bagels)
Duck Sausage with Maraschino Cherry
Linguine, Littleneck Clams & Tabasco
Sheep Ricotta Gnocci (Served in Winter with Different Prep), Fava Beans & Chamomile
Herbed Monkfish, Pepper Marinara
I much preferred the dessert option the second visit. We tried every dish, with Steve choosing the opposite pasta and entree so we could taste it all. If they are serving the ricotta gnocchi the third time I am ordering it! On our first visit we were on the wagon. That made it seem inexpensive. Just a giant warning, our wines were $15 each and we had two a piece, coffee and soda are $4. The lunch bill for 3 people, $381 with tip. A special lunch indeed. And somehow it was worth every penny. Good food and good company! Happy Father’s Day!
240 Mulberry Street – NoLita