de oink cafe guide to … new york city! torrisi italian specialties

Touted as one of the most wanted tables in NYC, Torrisi Italian Specialties operates as a sandwich shop by day and just last year, they decided to open for dinner.

It was her much awaited birthday treat

Kat and I rushed down to Torrisi after our ice cream. Phew we made it in time and managed to get the 6pm reservation. After a walk around the neighbourhood, we returned to the restaurant and  were promptly seated.

The menu for the night

Torrisi is small – there are only 18 seats. Everyone was seated at the same time, and all of us were to get the same four-course meal (antipasti, pasta, main and pastry) which changes daily and no menu substitution allowed. The service staff at Torrisi were warm and friendly. They took our bags so that we have more seating room. One of them noticed we have cameras and promptly told us that photography was allowed (just no flash).

The divine warm mozzarella

Once we were settled down, our first antipasti dish was served to us – warm mozzarella with Da Vero olive oil, milk thistle cream and a sprinkle of sea salt. This dish was DIVINE! And it was also the best dish we had for the night. The warm mozzarella which was made to order was fresh, chewy and ridiculously milky. The olive oil and the cream just worked so well with the cheese. The sprinkle of sea salt gave a bit of texture and enhanced the flavour of the mozzarella.

Garlic bread

While Kat and I were indulging in the warm mozzarella, a complimentary plate of garlic bread was given to us. The garlic bread was delicious – it was rich, crispy, and buttery.

Octopus salad

The next antipasti dish was the octopus salad. Can I say Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone (chef-owners of Torrisi) know how to prepare seafood? The octopus was cooked to perfection – it was not rubbery – just a few bites, and everything just melted away.  

New Yorkese cucumbers

Next was the New Yorkese cucumbers. I was given the honourable task to finish this plate (Kat don’t eat vegetables. YAH). This dish was more like an assortment of pickles. Explained by our server, the cucumbers were aged differently – some were a few days old, while others were aged for a couple of months. I like some of them while some tasted like dill pickles which I don’t like.

Liverwurst and pretzel

Our last antipasti dish was liverwurst and pretzel. Though I don’t fancy liver, I decided to give it a try. Indeed, I still don’t like liver. The liverwurst was creamy and rich but it has a porky aftertaste which I hate. That said, love the pretzel!

Spaghetti de mare

For our pasta course, we got spaghetti di mare. I kid you not with my earlier comment on the brilliantness of the chefs when it came to cooking of seafood. Every piece of scallop, clam, prawn in my spaghetti di mare was well cooked – buttery and soft.

Black bass

When it came to our mains, our server told us we have a choice of a fish or meat course. Since I am not a fan of lamb, I went with the black bass. The black bass was not overcooked – it was flaky and delicious. The pairing of the black bass with pickled tomatoes was great – it made one salivate and wanting more.

BBQ lamb

I had a bite of Kat’s BBQ lamb with molasses vinaigrette. Though I like the vinaigrette, I really don’t like the taste of lamb – too gamey.

Lemon ice

Before the pastry was served to us, we were each given a tiny cup of Italian ice. The flavour of the day was lemon. I am a big fan of citrus – but the lemon ice was way too sour – I only managed to finish half of it. Still a good palette cleanser.

Dessert

Finally. Dessert. We were given a plate of pastry which consisted of celery sugar cookies, cannoli with Salvatore filling, rainbow cookies, rhubarb bar and sunchoke tart. My favourite was of course the cannoli – the “shell” was crispy and the filling was creamy and rich. I also quite like the rhubarb bar which was earthy and tart. As for the rest, they were alright – didn’t rock our world.

The bill

Though this was a four-course meal, it turned out to be a nine dishes affair. The portion for each course was just right. It was the first time we were not struggling to finish the food. For the price of US$50, this prix fixe dinner was value for money – everything that was served to me was fresh, well cooked and delicious.

Torrisi Italian Specialties
250 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012 (at Prince Street)
+1 212-965-0995
(If you want to get the 6pm reservation, reach the restaurant by latest 530pm and leave your name with the waitress.)
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