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Morandi


Nathan
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Had the great pleasure of dining at Morandi last night with board member Rich and his lovely wife, Mrs. S. I loved the place.

Keith McNally has a rare gift with ambience – it isn’t easy creating a restaurant that feels fresh without feeling brand new, and warm and atmospheric without being twee. It hits every mark in terms of lighting and design, and I have to say too, that for a place that didn’t have any visible soft surfaces, the din that usually makes conversation difficult was missing, despite the place being packed and running full throttle.

You’d never know that they’d just opened – service was seamless. We started with the meatballs, which were exactly the Sicilian grandma comfort food that Rich had said they were. Our server recommended a seasonal pasta dish (the name of which I can’t remember) containing cream, cabbage and speck. Oh, it was delicious – a hint of nutmeg within. I had to try their ribolitta, the bread soup I’d become addicted to in Tuscany. So maybe it tastes better when you’re eating it while looking at the hills of Sienna – theirs is still damned good. And the skate was heavenly. I’d go back for that alone.

We finished up with a cheese plate (not really my thing, so I ordered the bitter chocolate with cherries). McNally introduced himself and thanked us as we left – nice touch.

Morandi doesn’t aspire to be more than beautifully executed comfort food in an enticingly homey setting, but boy, does it get it right.

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Now I'm REALLY sick I missed you guys.

...and we're not happy that we missed you either.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Although they appeared to be one and the same, I can only assume that Rich is eating at an entirely different restaurant than the Morandi where Dave H and I had dinner last night. To begin with, we arrived (admittedly a touch late thanks to a very confused cab driver) and were told that we would have to wait a few minutes for our 8:30 pm reservation. My first few attempts at getting to the bar for a glass of wine failed, so we stood huddled in our coats in the crowded entry area waiting to be seated. After forty minutes and my third conversation with the four hosts, we were finally offered a wine list and each given a glass of wine on the house. (Ok, it's a new restaurant, I can forgive minor service flaws. A free glass of wine helps significantly. Of course, we did have a reservation.) Just 45 minutes after our scheduled reservation, we were taken to a table in the back.

Basing many of our choices on reviews we had read on this site and others, we decided to order the burrata, finocchio alla cenere, the polpettine and the baked pizzoccheri dish. We had happily settled into commentary on the un-Italian atmosphere, incredibly fake looking wine in straw bottomed bottles lining the walls and a Richard Gere sighting when our appetizers arrived.

I started with the mozzarella and Dave H. with the fennel. Although I assume the mozzarella was fresh, the outside was rubbery like a store-bought version. However, the middle contained the creamy deliciousness that is mozzarella in Italy. The peppers and arugula were a nice complement, if traditional. We traded appetizers. The honey, fennel and orange dish was completely unmemorable. Although certainly in season, the fennel and orange were both largely flavorless and the overall dish seemed to lack any interesting elements. I'm not sure if it was an issue of low quality produce or technique, but this one didn't do it for me.

We may have taken a bit too long eating our appetizers (perpetuating the long wait for reserved tables scheduled too closely together), because when our entrees came out they seemed to have been cooked long before they were served. The pizzocheri, which was baked with cabbage, speck and fontina was served several degrees too hot, but it was quite good. The rye pasta was rolled super thin and the entire dish reminiscent of a gratin- and who doesn't like a starch covered in melted cheese? Based on my small number of experiences with her cooking, Jody Williams shines with Italian comfort food. Unfortunately, while I dug into the pizzocheri, Dave H was sampling the meatballs, which he declared "maybe just a little on the cold side; possibly reheated under the salamander." We switched plates and I bit into the ice cold meatballs. They tasted potentially delicious, had we begun eating them when we arrived at Morandi. The watery thin tomato sauce did not do justice to the well seasoned meat. As someone who devours the polpettine at Il Posto Accanto as often as possible, I don't think they held a candle.

By this point the girl with the British accent at the next table over had begun screaming at fever pitch and had called over each of the waiters to adjust their clothing, make air kisses, introduce them to her "gay husband- isn't he so gorgeous?" and announce that her wine tasted like "that Australian Shirazz shit" and hopefully wasn't $2000 a bottle. The guy two tables over began drinking from the Pellegrino bottle of the couple who had just left. We decided to skip dessert.

Although I'll probably give Morandi another try in 5 or 6 years when the meatpacking crowd is over it and people who live in the neighborhood can walk in without waiting, I doubt I'll rush back. This city just has too many affordable neighborhood Italian places with better food and atmosphere.

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Oh, god, what mixed reviews! I'm on my way there with family at 5:30 -- I'll report back. Being a MPD resident, I know we're chancing it. We were very happy with biweekly lunch at Pastis for the first two years...now won't set foot in the place.

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The service may have suffered during Jesikka's visit but It's unrealistic to assume that a McNally joint is going to open as a quiet little neighborhood joint.

I know McNally's restaurants and was hardly expecting a quiet neighborhood joint, but I can't think of a single other place in NY where I've had to wait more than 10 minutes with a reservation. If there are too many bookings, they shouldn't give a same day 8:30 pm reservation. Had the food been good, however, I would have been satisfied with my free glass of wine. Serving meatballs cold isn't ok.

Dave H should have gone somewhere in Brooklyn.

:biggrin:

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"I can't think of a single other place in NY where I've had to wait more than 10 minutes with a reservation. If there are too many bookings, they shouldn't give a same day 8:30 pm reservation."

Really? I can think of many places I've had to wait past my reservation--Strip House, Thor, and Artisanal to name a few. I think the most was just under an hour. It annoys me when it happens, but it's pretty common.

Edited by Noodlebot (log)
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Isn't Thursday at 8:30 the new Friday - or is it the new Saturday? I'm so confused.

Either way, to view it as a neighborhood spot you might have to go on a Monday or Tuesday - earlier than 8. It's just not gonna be a neighborhood spot - it's a freakin' McNally restaurant.

That said, no excuse for cold meatballs. The ONE TIME I had cold fries served to me at a McNally spot, as soon as I called someone over, they were whisked away and replaced with some piping hot ones.

It is interesting, though, the totally mixed reviews Morandi has been getting. Is it possible (gasp) that Ms. Williams isn't up to running a kitchen that is this busy?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Isn't Thursday at 8:30 the new Friday - or is it the new Saturday?  I'm so confused.

Either way, to view it as a neighborhood spot you might have to go on a Monday or Tuesday - earlier than 8.  It's just not gonna be a neighborhood spot - it's a freakin' McNally restaurant. 

That said, no excuse for cold meatballs.  The ONE TIME I had cold fries served to me at a McNally spot, as soon as I called someone over, they were whisked away and replaced with some piping hot ones.

It is interesting, though, the totally mixed reviews Morandi has been getting.  Is it possible (gasp) that Ms. Williams isn't up to running a kitchen that is this busy?

I'm confused as to why everyone keeps talking about Morandi as a neighborhood spot. What I meant by saying "I'll probably give Morandi another try in 5 or 6 years when. . .people who live in the neighborhood can walk in without waiting" was that eventually the scenesters and fashionistas will tire of Morandi and it will just be another Italian option in the west village. Do you think you need a reservation to get into Sushi Samba around the corner these days? (I don't know the answer and if it's yes I don't want to know because it will depress me. And yes, I do think Morandi has much more potential than Sushi Samba, but they're comparable in terms of popularity at opening.) I didn't expect to walk in without a reservation last night; I had a reservation! I simply don't expect to wait 45 minutes beyond it.

We would have let the waiter know that the meatballs were cold had he come over while they were being tried. Morandi was clearly stretched past capacity, be it Ms. Williams, the four lovely hosts, or the twelve waiters exchanging kisses at the table next to us.

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What I meant by saying "I'll probably give Morandi another try in 5 or 6 years when. . .people who live in the neighborhood can walk in without waiting" was that eventually the scenesters and fashionistas will tire of Morandi and it will just be another Italian option in the west village.

I don't know if that's true - have the "scenesters and fashionistas" tired of Balthazar yet?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I don't know if that's true - have the "scenesters and fashionistas" tired of Balthazar yet?

Or Pastis for that matter. Anyway, I agree that there's no excuse for warm dishes being served cold.

The stinco we ordered wasn't served cold but the sauce did start to skin over when it was delivered to our plate. Not ideal but I shrugged it off given all the factors involved. Late seating, we ordered a flotilla of appetizers and small dishes before the mains, the kitchen was closing, etc.

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Although they appeared to be one and the same, I can only assume that Rich is eating at an entirely different restaurant than the Morandi where Dave H and I had dinner last night.  To begin with, we arrived (admittedly a touch late thanks to a very confused cab driver) and were told that we would have to wait a few minutes for our 8:30 pm reservation.  My first few attempts at getting to the bar for a glass of wine failed, so we stood huddled in our coats in the crowded entry area waiting to be seated.  After forty minutes and my third conversation with the four hosts, we were finally offered a wine list and each given a glass of wine on the house.  (Ok, it's a new restaurant, I can forgive minor service flaws.  A free glass of wine helps significantly.  Of course, we did have a reservation.)  Just 45 minutes after our scheduled reservation, we were taken to a table in the back. 

Basing many of our choices on reviews we had read on this site and others, we decided to order the burrata, finocchio alla cenere, the polpettine and the baked pizzoccheri dish.  We had happily settled into commentary on the un-Italian atmosphere, incredibly fake looking wine in straw bottomed bottles lining the walls and a Richard Gere sighting when our appetizers arrived. 

I started with the mozzarella and Dave H. with the fennel.  Although I assume the mozzarella was fresh, the outside was rubbery like a store-bought version.  However, the middle contained the creamy deliciousness that is mozzarella in Italy.  The peppers and arugula were a nice complement, if traditional.  We traded appetizers.  The honey, fennel and orange dish was completely unmemorable.  Although certainly in season, the fennel and orange were both largely flavorless and the overall dish seemed to lack any interesting elements.  I'm not sure if it was an issue of low quality produce or technique, but this one didn't do it for me.

We may have taken a bit too long eating our appetizers (perpetuating the long wait for reserved tables scheduled too closely together), because when our entrees came out they seemed to have been cooked long before they were served.  The pizzocheri, which was baked with cabbage, speck and fontina was served several degrees too hot, but it was quite good.  The rye pasta was rolled super thin and the entire dish reminiscent of a gratin- and who doesn't like a starch covered in melted cheese?  Based on my small number of experiences with her cooking, Jody Williams shines with Italian comfort food.  Unfortunately, while I dug into the pizzocheri, Dave H was sampling the meatballs, which he declared "maybe just a little on the cold side; possibly reheated under the salamander."  We switched plates and I bit into the ice cold meatballs.  They tasted potentially delicious, had we begun eating them when we arrived at Morandi.  The watery thin tomato sauce did not do justice to the well seasoned meat.  As someone who devours the polpettine at Il Posto Accanto as often as possible, I don't think they held a candle. 

By this point the girl with the British accent at the next table over had begun screaming at fever pitch and had called over each of the waiters to adjust their clothing, make air kisses, introduce them to her "gay husband- isn't he so gorgeous?" and announce that her wine tasted like "that Australian Shirazz shit" and hopefully wasn't $2000 a bottle.  The guy two tables over began drinking from the Pellegrino bottle of the couple who had just left.  We decided to skip dessert.

Although I'll probably give Morandi another try in 5 or 6 years when the meatpacking crowd is over it and people who live in the neighborhood can walk in without waiting, I doubt I'll rush back.  This city just has too many affordable neighborhood Italian places with better food and atmosphere.

I assume you know better than to eat dinner at a McNally restaurant (let alone a just-opened one) on a weekend night (yes, Thursday is part of the weekend)....and not expect a certain sort of clientele. Those are amateur nights, no way around it. waiting for reservations happens almost anywhere...albeit it's always somewhat inexcusable...ditto for the cold meatballs...but the place has been open for two weeks. if it's not a smooth-running machine in three months I'll be flabbergasted.

I stopped in this past Wednesday night (the new Thursday) and that was quite mellow...so I'd just stay away from the weekend right now.

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I don't know if that's true - have the "scenesters and fashionistas" tired of Balthazar yet?

Or Pastis for that matter. Anyway, I agree that there's no excuse for warm dishes being served cold.

The stinco we ordered wasn't served cold but the sauce did start to skin over when it was delivered to our plate. Not ideal but I shrugged it off given all the factors involved. Late seating, we ordered a flotilla of appetizers and small dishes before the mains, the kitchen was closing, etc.

I live a block from Pastis and I'd say that it's pretty much B&T/tourists now. Brunch and lunch are exceptions of course. In contrast Balthazar manages to hold on to a plurality of everyone, including locals.

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We were there on a Tuesday night, fairly early (famous faces were just beginning to arrive as we were leaving). I'd guess that early in the evening, early in the week would be a better bet if you're there for the food.

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Nathan, we're neighbors! Re Pastis, I used to be a weekday breakfast-lunch regular and now, as I mentioned, can't go there at all. The food, the awful crowd, the service -- it's ghastly now. But we just came back from a successful Friday meal at Morandi -- probably because we arrived at 5:30, well before the place filled up (at about 7). We ordered for the table and really enjoyed all our antipasti -- the fried olives, fried artichokes, ricotta bruschetta, and grilled sardines with mint and tomatoes. (The bread, however, was nothing special -- seems not to be Balthazar bread.) Then we had the pasta with cabbage and speck -- creamy, smoky, homey, and quite irresistible. Even my cabbage-hating husband ate his. And pork shoulder (a special) stuffed with, as I recall, hard boiled egg, soprassata and chard, with a thin tomato sauce. This was visually appealing and tasty but slightly overcooked and dry. Sides were spinach (plain, as one would hope, and nice) and "roasted potatoes" which were our biggest disappointment -- they were dry, waxy and not at all crunchy -- seemed slow-baked, not roasted and sorely lacking in salt and oil. Dessert was a refreshing lemon/mint granita served in a lemon, a nice but run of the mill almond/lemon/ricotta torte (perhaps a bit dry) and a crepe with vanilla gelato and berry sauce. The crepe dessert was unsatisfactory I thought, though my family enjoyed it -- thick, tough crepe and the whole was like the kind of thing I might throw together on a weeknight, which surprised me because the crepes suzettes was my favorite dish at Pastis.

We were not seated at a good table -- that often happens as my daughter is seven and I suppose the staff tends to assume we are going be messy and not order for her. Next time I will ask to be better placed when reserving. But we were otherwise very pleased with the service, which was consistently friendly and professional. Our waiter, in particular, was competent, informative and friendly. And the crowd, at that hour, was civilized, with nobody braying on cell phones or broadcasting their tiresome lifestyle arrangements, as Jesikka experienced after 8:30. We always do first service because of our child, but I'm beginning to feel that early-bird actually is the way to go these days.

Total before tip with a modest half-bottle of wine: $150.00. We thought it was a good neighborhood-restaurant experience and we plan on returning. I bet early Tuesday nights will be okay for a while

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The bread, however, was nothing special -- seems not to be Balthazar bread.

I thought the bread was being baked by Balthazar bakery - but a different bread than they serve at that restaurant.

From your experience, ours, and others, it does seem that some of the food is questionably seasoned (i.e. lacking salt) and some is overcooked as well. Let's hope they can iron out those problems fairly quickly.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Morandi was clearly stretched past capacity, be it Ms. Williams, the four lovely hosts, or the twelve waiters exchanging kisses at the table next to us.

Were they kissing each other or guests?

Wow, I've been there twice now and have not been kissed by a waiter, waitress bartender, beerkeeper, wine steward or the hostesses or owner - or even my dinner companions (I probably need to work for the Times and dine at Robert's).

In fact the last time I was kissed by any restaurant staff person was in 1927 at Luchow's. But I was 18 then and very cute.

I don't think that would happen now under any circumstances - unfortunately my best days have passed.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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