Torrisi Italian Specialties opened with the mission of remaking Italian-American standards, and soon introduced a prix-fixe dinner that was as much new American as Italian. Torrisi's newest undertaking is a big, thoughtful, whimsical tasting menu that riffs on the foods of New York, past and present, Italian and otherwise. plumpdumpling says Torrisi 2.0, as chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone have called it, is "bold and impassioned, playful and polished—an embodiment of New York City itself." (At 20 courses for $150, it's also a New York–size feast.) Here are a few standouts from plumpdumpling's recent dinner:
Bar Snacks: These one- or two-bite table-setters (seven in all), brought out in rapid succession, included little caviar-topped knishes served over buckwheat groats; rabbit with carrot purée, "sweet and herby with a crunchy base"; and juicy, flavorful chicken "oysters", nuggets of dark meat dipped in house-made Chinese oyster sauce and rolled in crushed cashew. Sable "cigarettes" offered a bite of smoked black cod wrapped around sticks of fried dough, with orange roe and black poppy seeds at the tips—"a kind-of-nasty/kind-of-clever reminder of the salmon cone at Per Se."
Brighton Beets: A nod to heavily Russian Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, this colorful dish was "a mix of crisp and tender, fresh and long-cooked. Sour apples and fried onions added to the already bright flavors."
Foie Gras Newberg and Delmonico Tartare update two specialties of Delmonico's: Foie gras replaces lobster in the Newberg, which is topped with brandy gelée and served with a salty, spiced oyster mushroom salad; the beef tartare comes with crisp cornichon slices, an egg yolk, and buttery béarnaise. "The presentation wowed me," plumpdumpling says of the latter. "Spread on the thickest, saltiest, caper-powdered potato chips, it was more finesse than novelty."
Lobster Cantonese: Lobster with vermicelli evoked Chinatown. It was topped with crunchy breadcrumbs that "made the lobster seem deep-fried, like sweet and sour pork gone high class. Just plain delicious, no matter what cuisines it’s trying to emulate."
Pastries: Borne on a cake stand were apple doughnuts, pistachio-and-lime truffles, crumb cakes, pine-nut macarons, celery cakes, cannoli, mint chocolate truffles, and seaweed taffy. "All of it was impressive. Even the seaweed taffy."
"Torrisi is playful, gutsy, and aiming to please," adds plumpdumpling (who also blogged about her dinner). "The week before we dined here, my boyfriend and I had the chef’s tasting at a three-Michelin-starred restaurant that was supposed to be the best meal of our lives, and eating at Torrisi was a better experience. You feel like Torrisi is making the absolute best food it can at this moment, and I have high hopes for its future."
Torrisi Italian Specialties [Nolita]
250 Mulberry Street (between Prince and Spring streets), Manhattan