Torrisi Italian Specialties, NYC
Chef: Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone
Cuisine: Italian, American Traditional
Price: $50pp prix fixe + drinks
Address: 250 Mulberry St., NYC 10012
Hours: Lunch 11am-4pm / Dinner 6pm-11pm (Closed Mondays)
It’s only in Manhattan that one would find an Italian deli that moonlights as a chic restaurant.
By day, Torrisi Italian Specialties seems just like any Little Italy deli. There are salamis hanging in the window, boxes of pasta on the shelves, and a deli counter full of cold cuts and antipasti dishes priced by the pound. The lunch menu offers Italian American classics from homemade mozzarella to whipped ricotta, eggplant relish to eggplant parmigiana, whole roasted turkey hero to a chicken parm hero (yum!), and of course espresso to coffee cake. However, it’s when Torrisi shuts down after lunch from 4pm-6pm that things really get interesting…. we New Yorkers love a little intrigue with our dining experiences!
At 6pm, Torrisi reopens to the public for an intimate dining experience that offers patrons a four course prix fixe meal for $50 per person. The interesting thing is that at Torrisi Italian Specialties — there are no Italian specialties! “No Reggiano, no San Marzano, no Pecorino!” says co-chef-owner Rich Torrisi. Rich Torrisi and his partner Mario Carbone spent years cooking at very traditional Italian restaurants such as A Voce and Del Posto, and now they have applied those techniques to reinvent Italian-American cuisine. The focus is on fresh, seasonal American ingredients to develop a dinner menu that changes daily. For the main dish, you have the choice between meat or fish. There are no special requests, so bringing a vegetarian here would not be ideal. Otherwise, with the four courses and the many little extras along the way — this meal is a fantastic bargain!
This place is pretty straight forward about its rules and as long as you follow them, you are in for a glorious dining experience. It is first come first serve and they do not accept reservations (although private parties are available). It had taken a couple attempts before I was able to finally score one of these exclusive 18 seats in the Torrisi dining room. I found the best way to get a table is to show up at 5:30pm (30 min before opening). Around 5:45pm, the restaurant will open the doors and start taking names from the line that surely has stretched down the block already. Once you can put your name down, you can choose between 6:00pm, 7:45pm or 9:00pm dinner reservations. Once you put your name down, you can wander around SoHo for some happy hours until dinner time. My favorites include the $1 oysters at Salt, oyster shooters at Lure Fishbar, and the live jazz at Antique Garage.
I loved the cozy interior and the delicious comfort food, and I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone (particularly those with the patience and motivation to show up early to get in line). Honestly, I was a huge fan of the entire meal, although I favored the antipasti dishes more than the mains. The Torrisi and Carbone duo is now in the works of opening a sandwich shop called “Parm.” The new offshoot will be located just next door to the original restaurant and serve an expanded version of Torrisi Italian Specialties’ menu… can’t wait!
There are no wines by the glass, only bottles on the menu. The menu was quite diverse and had quite a few interesting blends like the crazy but delicious hybrid we ordered below. Prices range from $35-200 I think… didn’t really pay attention to the topside of that range haha
Merlot/Cab Sauv/Cab Franc/Sangio/Grenache/Pinot, A to Z “Chemin de Terre”, 2006 Rogue Valley, OR $40
Garlic Toast with Chives
I hear this is one of the menu items that has stayed consistent throughout the years and I am so thankful for that! This is absolutely the best garlic bread I have ever tasted… every single bite is just infused with garlic!
Warm Mozz, DaVero, Milk Thistle Cream
Comes to the table fresh and warm and oozing with richness
The best pasta fagioli I have had
Lombardi’s Clam Slice
Really unique and flavorful
Baby Shells, Calamari, Pepperoni
Interesting calamari preparation, very simple and light
Perch Dogana, Pickled Green Tomatoes
I felt this dish was a bit busy for me, but Natalya liked it
BBQ Lamb Shoulder, Molasses Vinaigrette
Clockwise from top – Lemon Sorbet, Cannoli with Orange and Fennel, House Pastries – Tricolor Dark Chocolate Cake, Candied Nougat Olive, Cheesecake Tarte with Beet Marmalade, Sugar Cookie with Cherry Jam and Chocolate