I first discovered Torrisi Italian Specialities while walking down Mulberry Street during a New York buying trip two summers ago. It was a midday and I was intrigued by the long line forming out the door of this tiny spot. The lace curtains draping the storefront windows, with their gilded lettering, strongly resembled the Little Italy created by Frances Ford Coppola in The Godfather II. Evocative of a different era, Torrisi certainly could be a next door neighbor to “Genco Pura Olive Oil Company.” When I mentioned the place to my foodie friend Jen, she explained it was a tiny 18 seater, serving classic Italian American lunch fare (like Chicken Parm and Turkey Heroes) during the day, and then at night it morphed into an elevated, but still decidedly Italian American, prix fix dining spot. And of course they didn’t take reservations. And it was white hot.
Gladly today they do take reservations (but only 30 days in advance) and the lunch fare has spun off into a second spot next door (the appropriately named Parm). I have since had the pleasure of dining at Torrisi twice; once last fall and then again last week. Both times I was charmed by the experience and thoroughly impressed by the quality of the food delivered by owners and chefs, Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi and their team. The menu changes daily, but the format remains the same. For $75 per person you are served four assorted “antipasti,” one pasta, an entree choice of either meat or fish, a dessert and a delightful takeaway box of small cookies and candies. For both the pasta and main course you are offered a choice of two options, but the rest of the menu is fixed.
The wine list is well edited and surprisingly reasonable. The service smart and brisk. And the food is beyond delicious. Last week’s highlights included Warm House-made Mozzarella with DaVero Olive Oil (served with delicious toasted bread slices), A Boar’s Head Grilled Panini (yes I was nervous, but the meat was so tender and toothsome) and Surf and Turf Carpaccio (a paper thin slice of raw beef with lump seafood and sausage). Both my pasta – Sheep’s Milk Gnocchi with Chestnut Ragu (the light as air pasta paired perfectly with the earthy sweet chestnuts) and Jim’s – Seashells di Mare (shell shaped pasta with a delightful medley of fresh seafood) – were exceptional. The Lemon Cake was beautiful, the just right balance of sour and sweet. And the small white box of cookies tied with baker’s twine was the perfect grace note for the experience (it included their signature red, green and white layered cookies – as featured in Bon Appétit).
I can’t think of a place where I’ve felt so tucked in and taken care of. And spotting Cameron Diaz across the small dining room during our last dinner certainly added a few extra watts to an already bright winter evening. All in all two exceptional evenings spent in very capable culinary hands.
Torrisi Italian Specialities
250 Mulberry St
New York, NY 10012