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daisy17

Torrisi

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I had wondered why no one in the group had commented on Torrisi, either. My personal experience (based on one visit only) was that the food is very good, the experience (once you've finally been squeezed into a spot) is fun, homey and friendly, and that the overall takeaway is that it's well worth a visit, but maybe slightly inflated by hype. The cuisine is one of those that feels like comfort food, and reminds me of childhood, even though I probably never had any of these things any time during my childhood. It's not really rustic Italian, even though the food is both rustic and Italian-ish. It's more Italian-American, like what we might imagine was eaten by those who grew up in Little Italy long before the name "Nolita" came into play.

I really like the place, and the $50 prix-fixe seems like a really good value. Certainly, $50 seems like a steal for "one of the hottest Italian places in town". However, I think if you dissect the meal like a mathematician, you'll find that it's comparable to quite a few other places in terms of price. It's not a ripoff by any stretch of the imagination. It's a very solid value. But it's probably not the steal that maybe some imply it is. Let's say a $60-65 dollar meal for $50 rather than a $100 meal for $50.

The meal starts with a volley of little antipasti, which were great. They'd seem like a series of amuses at a fancier restaurant, but this is not the sort of shop that trades in "amuses". Soft mozzarella with olive oil and milk thistle cream seems to be a standby and is very nice. There are usually also a few little fried treats, sometimes vegetable (eggplant, cauliflower), sometimes animal. We had a little canape with baccala that was nice also. And often a salad-like item. Then, a small pasta course follows. Most people I've talked to have really liked that course. Mine was fine, but not special. It was a fairly standard linguine frutti di mare. Linguine tossed in a very tasty but standard issue red sauce with bits of fish and shellfish. For mains, there is usually a choice of two, one seafood and one meat/poultry. The day we went, the mains were a skate wing Francese and "devil's chicken". The skate wing was pleasant-tasting, but the breading wasn't properly crisp. Again, nice but nothing special. Had it been executed slightly more perfectly, it would have made a stronger case. The devil's chicken was slightly more done than optimal, and not quite as spicy as its name implies, but fine. In general, I think the little antipasti were by far the strongest suit of the meal, and things tailed off slightly from there. I've heard the same from a few other visitors, though it varies a bit because the menu changes frequently. The last "course" was a cookie plate that was also reminiscent of the Little Italy of yore. Those who know me here will know that I'm not a big proponent of this style of cookie. It doesn't have any nostalgia for me...it just seems like dry shortbread. The mini-cannoli weren't bad. But those unnatural looking tri-colored cookies are pretty redolent of marzipan...one of the few foods on the planet that I'm just not a fan of. I'm willing to concede that this is probably a personal bias, but I really think they would have been better off serving some kind of regular dessert instead of the cookie plate.

Overall, I think going to Torrisi is great fun, and a good value. There may be a tendency to overhype it to some extent due to the good reviews and reasonable prix-fixe. But the staff were all really warm and friendly, and there wasn't any trace of that "in" restaurant condescension at all. I'd certainly go back any time, but on a truly objective basis, the food isn't as special as that being served at the next level up of Italian places, such as Scarpetta, L'artusi and the like. It sort of fills a middle ground between those and the slightly less ambitious value-oriented ones like Frank, Max and Il Bagatto.

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The NY forum has been so quiet lately, it's depressing...

Part of me wants to agree about the hype, but most of me just loved it. I wish we had more spots like that in NY - it reminded me of Prune in some ways - straightforward, honest, good food with minimal trappings or fanfare.

The warm mozzarella served with garlic/tomato toast really hit the spot. I think that so much depends on the daily menu. Our pasta was potato gnocchi with brussels sprouts and mustard. Delicious. Our mains were bbq lamb shoulder with beans and a fish (no idea what, completely can't recall) prepared with olives and potato - the fish was really perfectly cooked and lovely.

I love rainbow cookies.

We left satisfied, not overly stuffed, and I felt like it was kind of a bargain at $50. My glass of red wine was $9.

The whole "go early and wait in line and put your name down" could have been annoying, but the woman taking names was so sweet, calling us to confirm and telling us to come back a little early, it was really impossible to be anything but pleased by the whole night.

In between putting our names down and eating we hit 1534, the new cocktail place under Jacques on Prince Street. We should be talking about that too.

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So easy for a liberal (ovo lacto) vegetarian to eat in Italy. At virtually any restaurant. Frustrating to find Italian restaurant's like this in NY that only know how to cook meat. Maybe that's what they mean by the Italian-AMERICAN thing?

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I think Torrisi is overrated — not that it isn’t good, but anything so ridiculously hyped is bound to be less than it’s cracked up to be.

The $50 prix fixe is certainly a fair deal, on a value-per-dollar-spent basis. But against that are two pretty big drawbacks. The first is that dinner is an all-or-nothing program. You get the full, multi-course meal, or you get nothing at all. The second is that you can’t just drop in whenever you want to. They don’t take reservations, and at prime times the wait can be significant.

I think there are other restaurants in the rustic Italian genre, where the food is as good or better, and that don’t have these limitations.

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I think Torrisi is overrated — not that it isn’t good, but anything so ridiculously hyped is bound to be less than it’s cracked up to be.

Well that's a downer.

Why is it a downer to say that a place, although good, is not quite as mind-blowingly good as the stratospheric hype?

It sorta reminds me of another forum (not food related), where one person said "A is better than B," and someone replied, "Why all the hate for B?" It's not "hate" to point out that B is good, but with drawbacks that allow A to be better.

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Their turkey sandwich is well-made but not particularly exciting. That's not the fault of the restaurant ... I don't particularly care for turkey in general. That being said, I ordered it because I'd heard so much about it that I had to try it.

As for dinner, I haven't been there yet. I have read elsewhere that in terms of dining well, the quality of food at Torrisi is not much more than what one can produce if one were a home cook with higher than average skill.

That's not quite the kind of thing I want to hear when I'm considering dining out at a place that has upwards of a 60 to 90-minute wait for a table.

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Sure, Torrisi is different from other restaurants. But it's different in ways that make it WORSE -- a lot of inconvenience with very little payback.

Paradoxically, if Torrisi operated like a normal restaurant, people would notice that, but for the price, it's nothing special. It would be like Franky's: also overrated, but not hyped to the point where perfectly good but not out-of-the-ordinary food gets called "poetry" in the New York Times.

If people aren't writing as much about New York City restaurants any more, I think it's because there's not much to write about. Owing to the economy, restauranteurs have pretty much stopped attempting to open top-level places. They only open up mid-level places tricked up in one way or another to seem special, when they really aren't. How much is there to say?

I also think that falling for a place like this is a disservice to Momofuku, which actually did what these other guys pretend to do -- serve unique and special food at the mid-level. When I compare Torrisi to Ssam Bar in its glory days, it makes me sad.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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If people aren't writing as much about New York City restaurants any more, I think it's because there's not much to write about. Owing to the economy, restauranteurs have pretty much stopped attempting to open top-level places. They only open up mid-level places tricked up in one way or another to seem special, when they really aren't. How much is there to say?

Agreed.

When your most popular establishments are places that serve ... meatballs, devilled eggs, pork belly and cocktails, you go into waiting mode.

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