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Morandi


Nathan
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Morandi's last night with 4 girlfriends--the perfect place to catch up (or yell at each other across the table).

While I'm kind of medium on the food, I was in the mood for this kind of atmosphere--tons of energy, a restaurant that was full and bustling but not so packed that you couldn't find space at the bar to order a drink. The people-watching is truly second-to-none. Prada snakeskin bag? Check! Christian Louboutins? Check! Large diamond rings? Check and Check! Couple full-out making out at the end of the bar--alas, Check!. That wasn't so good. People-watching is not a noble pursuit, but I got there early and had some time to kill. Plus, how can you resist with this kind of crowd. Funnily, it didn't seem too scene-y or hipster, but it was still fun to watch.

During that time, I also had two cocktails: Pimm's Italiano and Prosecco/Pere. Both were light and refreshing. The prosecco was also quite strong.

Our table was not a "prime" table, next to the "Vino" door and kind of busy with the sommelier(s?) rushing back and forth beside us, but it wasn't a big deal. Also not big--the water glasses. You know when you get an orange juice with brunch and the large is just teeny? That's the size of the water glass. In a nod to the service--we never had to wait for refills, but that poor guy refilled them about 7-8 times over the course of a 1 1/2 hour meal. I guess we're just a hydrated group of people.

Other hydration: I don't remember the white wine that we ordered (sorry--see two cocktails above).

Appetizers: Octopus, Grilled Fennel, Bruschetta. Of these, the octopus was by far my favorite--fabulous texture and flavor. I'm going through an Octopus phase, I think--I loved the preparation at Del Posto as well (though not much else there in the enoteca).

Dinner: Buckwheat pasta with speck and some kind of cheese. I don't know what I was expecting, but this was quite heavy and rich. I love heavy, rich food but even I couldn't put a dent in this thing! It was delicious, almost verging on the cloying side with all that cheese and fatty speck--but it wasn't quite what I was looking for that night. My own fault in poor ordering, not in the preparation. This was everyone else's favorite dish.

Other entrees: Branzino, brought to the table whole and then fileted. Light, clean tasting--probably my favorite. Sea bream (didn't get to try this). The Meatballs (my second favorite). Sea Scallops--not the best, not the worst ever, but definitely not that good. Kind of oversalted as the lemon/caper ratio seemed off to me.

Dessert: Rice Pudding special, Crespelle with Vanilla Gelato, and Tartufo. The Tartufo overpoweringly tasted of espresso powder--too much for me, but the table polished it off quite quickly, though not as quickly as the crespelle, probably our favorite. Simple flavors done well. The Rice Pudding was kind of meh to me, but I prefer a creamier version, and this was a little more dry to my taste.

Overall? I'm not running back there, but I wouldn't be upset if my friends wanted to go back. It was perfect for the kind of evening we wanted--not a fine dining experience, but a place to have a lively, unserious conversation with good friends in a lively, unserious atmosphere.

Edited by sadie_siamesecat (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Had dinner there tonight for the first time. I had waited until they had time to work out the kinks. Alas, I should have given it a few more weeks.

First, the hosts ignored me while I waited at the host stand (there was only one other party waiting who were also being ignored). From my eventual seat at the bar, I could see this was standard.

I have never seen anything like that room on any of my trips to Italy. Not even in Florence, the capital of kitsch. I love Pastis and Balthazar--they recreate the idea of France, but this recreated the idea of a chain restaurant in a strip mall in Indiana.

Wine was warm. Too warm. Almost mulled. And the bartender might as well have been putting it in a blender before serving he was shaking the bottle so much when he opened it.

Once I got a seat, I ordered the fried artichokes (which I had loved at Gusto). Flavorless and dull. Like someone had raked the lawn and then fried the leaves. I tried the lemon on them, but no joy.

Followed with the spaghetti with clams. Well, it looked like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for a good 10 minutes before I got it. The pasta on top was nearly crisp. No flavor from either the pasta or clams until I got to the bottom of the dish and found the remaining juice. I think the dish could have been good at one point, but not when it got to me. I had almost the same dish on my last visit to Pastis for lunch and it was far superior.

On the bartender's suggestion, I had a chocolate mousse dessert. It looked for all the world like freshly harvested Rocky Mountain oysters. The marscapone/grappa/honey topping had no flavor as if the various components cancelled each other out. The mousse was fine. Not great.

Before I left a lovely woman sat down next to me and offered me one of her fried olives. It was the best thing I had all night. Juicey, fresh and hot with a tasty filling.

The bartender was very nice and I only lacked for attention when he got caught up in conversation with other guests. Not really his fault. There were three bartenders and only enough work for two. Its hard for any service person to keep alert when they are just standing there. And yes, it was busy when I first got there but the bar is too small for three people behind it.

I was surprised to see it emptying out so early on a weekend night. Not at all like the experience at other McNally spots, even Schiller's.

Edited by RobinsonCuisine (log)
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I have never seen anything like that room on any of my trips to Italy.  Not even in Florence, the capital of kitsch.  I love Pastis and Balthazar--they recreate the idea of France, but this recreated the idea of a chain restaurant in a strip mall in Indiana.

Wine was warm.  Too warm.  Almost mulled.  And the bartender might as well have been putting it in a blender before serving he was shaking the bottle so much when he opened it.

Once I got a seat, I ordered the fried artichokes (which I had loved at Gusto).  Flavorless and dull.  Like someone had raked the lawn and then fried the leaves.  I tried the lemon on them, but no joy.

Followed with the spaghetti with clams.  Well, it looked like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for a good 10 minutes before I got it.  The pasta on top was nearly crisp. 

wow, so much like my experience! and it was almost a month ago - the artichokes, the pasta, the wine - surprised none of these have improved.

also surprised - and disappointed - they do not seem to be serving Balthazar bread?! does anyone know what bread they are serving? is it reaaly a different bread from the Balthazar Bakery? it was a typical Italian restaurnat Sullivan-style pugliese loaf (IIRC), light with large air pockets - nice enough but Balthazar's bread is so delicious...

and why do they charge for the same radishes with anchovy and olive oil they do gratis at Gusto? i mean, throw some other vegetables in there or make it somewhat different, it just feels tacky to do the exact same thing - and charge for it, even if it's $5.

they seem to be off to a rocky start. the upselling and pushing was relentless too - if i go back, i think i'd rather go for lunch. volume is not their forte - it might be better when slower - flinflon, how as your lunch?

Alcohol is a misunderstood vitamin.

P.G. Wodehouse

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they seem to be off to a rocky start. the upselling and pushing was relentless too - if i go back, i think i'd rather go for lunch. volume is not their forte - it might be better when slower - flinflon, how as your lunch?

The most notable thing about the lunch was that the service was relaxed and almost too attentive. Probably because it was their first week of lunch and they were very overstaffed. I don't remember the exact dishes that we had (and that might say quite a bit) but nothing was poorly prepared or substandard. If anything it was all a notch above average.

What I really didn't like more than anything else was the straw carafes of wine. Just kind of....not pleasant to look at especially after they start to stain with red wine.

Perhaps not as noticable at night but in the unforgiving light of day it was pretty funny.

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so food wasn't worthy of report or you just didn't get around to writing it up?

i hear you about thosde carafes, made me feel like Epcot. i guess you do see a lot more in daylight :laugh: is the Epcot-y feeling as strong during the day?

do you know whether the lunch menu is much different from dinner or rather similar?

Alcohol is a misunderstood vitamin.

P.G. Wodehouse

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Going this evening for my mom's 79th birthday. It will be my first visit since two times during opening week.

I'm anxious to see the direction it has taken. From all reports, Morandi has appeared to take a step backward. If true, that's a shame. I thought it was rustic Italian at its finest on my first two visits.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

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

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Sorry guys, a last minute problem forced us to cancel. My mom wasn't the issue and we will try to re-schedule.

Rich Schulhoff

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

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  • 2 weeks later...

As I get older and therefore less easy to impress, I’m increasingly perplexed about restaurants like Morandi. What is it that drives people, particularly in large urban centers like New York, to flock to these zoos for food of varying quality (Morandi’s, to kill the suspense, I thought was pretty good) where the noise level is dizzying, the seating and atmosphere generally uncomfortable and the crowd all desperate for some indefinable validation, which they then ignore or forget about by getting sloshed. I’m not sorry I went: it was interesting, like watching insects in a terrarium, but I’m in no hurry to go back (at least for dinner: the bartenders admitted that lunch is an infinitely more relaxed and pleasurable experience, the innuendo of which was not lost on me).

Despite very mixed reviews from several friends who had already been, including complaints about tiny and torturous tables and bizarre service, I went last night with two friends, one still rabidly obsessed by mingling with the SHTy set (that’s Smart, Hip and Trendy for those of you blissfully uninterested in such things). I still don’t understand what excitement there is to garner from the possibility that your bottom is gracing the same seat as Paulina Porizkova or Ryan Gosling or whoever this minute’s bold-faced name of interest is, but hey, whatever bakes your cookies: I’m game as long as I can get a fairly decent meal and booze.

Morandi, happily, provides more than decent food and booze, though other aspects of the experience need work. The good news first: our meal was pretty good. Focaccia on its own was nicely crispy / chewy, and while the zesty cherry tomatoes and bocconcini were impossible to actually balance on it, they made a nice accompaniement. Salumi were nondescript and at $16 for a meager portion not something I’d repeat. Fried artichokes were properly done and satisfying. All this washed down with a terrific prosecco, Malvasia Frizzati, $12 a glass. The girls both ordered the branzino, which was perfectly fine, though the accompanying wilted escarole actually outshone it. My fresh tagliatelle were by no means al dente, a bit disappointing in what’s obviously striving to be a better-than-average Italian restaurant, but the Bolognese sauce that topped it was terrific, heavily redolent of nutmeg, which might be off-putting to some people but I loved it. A nifty bottle of a Sardinian merlot, $33, was ripe and rounded and juicy. For dessert we spent our carbs on one slice of superb chocolate torta and more hooch, a bottle of the moscato d’asti. Considering the unseemly amount of booze we dispatched, $125 a person with tip was not surprising.

That said, the service needs improving. The staff is either all actually Italian or pretending hard to be, and while this shtick probably comes off better in Italy itself, in the Village I would prefer a little backing off. Our particular server spent much time flirting with all three of us, when he wasn’t pushing us hard to order. Staggering the order was not permitted: we were instructed to place everything at once. Food flew to our table almost before the previous plates had been cleared, and we lost track of how many times we were asked if we were done yet. 90 minutes after sitting down we were actually asked to vacate the table. Lingering, even if one wanted to amidst the din, is openly discouraged at Morandi, which left a bad taste in all our mouths.

Summary: I wouldn’t go back for dinner, but if I happened to be in that area on a warm summer day at lunchtime, there are worse things you could do than get an outside table and order a dish or two.

Food, glorious food!

“Eat! Eat! May you be destroyed if you don’t eat! What sin have I committed that God should punish me with you! Eat! What will become of you if you don’t eat! Imp of darkness, may you sink 10 fathoms into the earth if you don’t eat! Eat!” (A. Kazin)

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I tried to drop into Morandi for a late bite last night -- I wanted to try the daily special of Busecco -- but it was a complete zoo. It was actively unpleasant to even walk over to the bar to see if anything looked to be available.

Of course, this is going to dissipate over time.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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its not a place I would travel for....but it's not Balthazar

Couldn't agree more. Absolutely not worth making a special trip, unless, like my friend, you care more about who's been or might go there than you do about the food.

...it was a complete zoo.  It was actively unpleasant to even walk over to the bar to see if anything looked to be available.  Of course, this is going to dissipate over time.

You never know: Pastis remains a zoo how many years after it's opening? Granted, that may partially be due to MPD location, but still... I was just there in November early on midweek night and the place was bedlum. It will be interesting to see in a year or so how Morandi fares.

Food, glorious food!

“Eat! Eat! May you be destroyed if you don’t eat! What sin have I committed that God should punish me with you! Eat! What will become of you if you don’t eat! Imp of darkness, may you sink 10 fathoms into the earth if you don’t eat! Eat!” (A. Kazin)

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yeah..I wonder. Pastis is across from the Gansevoort though...it's tourist/B&T central.

hmm..on the other hand...Morandi's near the PATH station.

cheez...I hope it doesn't turn out like the Spotted Pig (which is seriously unpleasant to go to anytime before midnight)

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Bruni's judgment is in: a rather harshly worded one-star. He ate considerably better than we did, which is what saves it from a Satisfactory. It's not clear whether Jesikka and I just ordered badly, or the food has improved over the past month (as rumored), or it's just wildly inconsistent (as it appears to me, and as Bruni hints).

What is clear is that he hate hate hates the decor, atmosphere, and concept. IMO justifiably so.

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Bruni's judgment is in: a rather harshly worded one-star. He ate considerably better than we did, which is what saves it from a Satisfactory. It's not clear whether Jesikka and I just ordered badly, or the food has improved over the past month (as rumored), or it's just wildly inconsistent (as it appears to me, and as Bruni hints).

What is clear is that he hate hate hates the decor, atmosphere, and concept. IMO justifiably so.

It was about the weakest one star that I can recall.
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It's not clear whether Jesikka and I just ordered badly, or the food has improved over the past month (as rumored), or it's just wildly inconsistent (as it appears to me, and as Bruni hints).

I think it's wildly inconsistent. The food and service were both very good the night I dined there, though clearly rare few others have had the same experience. And I'd never have fought my way through a scrum just in order to dine out, so again, the timing was good.

I'm not sure that one star is going to detract from its popularity much, though - this isn't a place people are battling to be at just for the food.

Edited by H. du Bois (log)
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I happend to love this place. I ate once at a small cramped table and a few times at the bar which is much more fun. I never liked the food at pastis or schiller's and can't be bothered with Balthazar except for brunch, but I really liked the food at Morandi. Meatballs, Veal Chop, fried stuffed olives, and the pasta with lemon and cheese all delicious and keep me coming back.. plus they have a decent cheap bottle of Aglianico which always makes me happy. And it may be loud but it's fun, I can go for a million nice quiet dinners all over town but on a thursday friday or saturday night i want a little more than that with my dining experience before going out. to all the haters be damned.. best veal chop I've had in a long time.

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this place has a while to go before it's another Balthazar or Pastis. it may not be critic proof after all.

it was nearly dead at 11:00 last night (and Thursday is a weekend night!...it wasn't raining yet either)

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this place has a while to go before it's another Balthazar or Pastis.  it may not be critic proof after all.

it was nearly dead at 11:00 last night (and Thursday is a weekend night!...it wasn't raining yet either)

Yesterday was a strange night though.

I visited two bars last night and both were nearly empty.

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hmm....the WV seemed quite busy last night.

the Waverly Inn was packed, with paparazzi parked outside (literally), EO was busy, Little Branch was busy, etc....

but Morandi was dead. I guarantee you that Balthazar, Pastis and Schiller's were full at eleven last night.

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  • 1 year later...
Has anyone been since the departure of Jody Williams?

I was there a couple of weeks ago and it was a mixed experience. Carciofi alla giudea were competent, burrata with heirloom tomatoes was outstanding but that's more about shopping than cooking. Pastas were great - perfectly al dente which is something you don't often find nowadays; a really nice cacio e pepe stands out in my mind, and I remember feeling like the pastas were generous portions and good value for the $. The major let-down was a pork special which the server had rather imprecisely described as "pork cooked with milk so that it's very tender." I asked if "cooked" meant braised, and if this was the milk-braised pork prep (a la Marcella Hazan) that Tony Liu did at August a few years ago and the waiter assured me yes, the same thing. Turns out the pork was roasted, not braised and appeared that the pan was degazed with milk to make a sauce but it certainly wasn't anything like tender - cooked medium to medium/well I'd say. I pointed out to the server that brased and roasted aren't the same thing and they offered to make me a new one or bring something else but we were running late for another event so I made the best of it. Pork was a huge portion but was priced somewhere closed to $30, which I think is a lot for a pork chop with no sides. We did have the potatoes alla nonna (or some such name) which were good - mashed with lots of pan drippings is what it seemed to be.

I never went under Williams so can't really compare before/after. It's close to our apartment but as good as the pastas were the service was so scatter-brained and the noise level in the room so deafening that I don't know that we'll be back all that often.

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  • 2 months later...

Living up the block, and having been here many many times, I came to realize that I had in fact not returned since Tony Liu took over. I realized this when on a spur we decided we wanted Jody's meatball's, walked on over, took a seat and were handed menus. That's when it hit - oh yeah, it's a new chef!

This menu is HUGE in comparison. I had a mini-Shopsin's moment when handed the menu, only if Shopsins were in Italian. And apart from the big selling holdovers like the Foccacia Caprese, Fried Artichokes, Stuffed Olives, Taglietelle ala Bolognese and Cacio e Pepe, there is a lot of new food on the menu including most all of the specials.

In point of fact, we skipped our meatballs. Instead we went for the "Timbalo", a daily special which the server described (incorrectly) as a meatball pie. So I have the same issue as jimk with waiters being off the mark here and there - but in this case it turned out great. For $29 we got this MASSIVE dough covered penne/zitti pasta stuffed pie with a whole boiled egg or two here and there, a meatball or two, some sausage stuffed in there - but mostly delicious pasta, sauce and peas and a ton of it. We wound up taking 1/3 of it home, this thing could seriously feed a family.

I guess I'm officially excited after a very minimal sneak peak. Unfortunately the breakfast menu (I work from Morandi in the mornings a lot during the summer - free wifi) hasn't changed as much yet, nor has the lunch sandwich menu. But with the exception of the bisteca per due (aged porterhouse for two), which used to come with more rosemary potatoes than one could eat, but now comes with fried peppers from the looks of it, the changes appear to be for the better. If I had to describe the change in a sentence, I'd say it's less weird stuff (no risotto with blueberries anymore) more yummy looking stuff (grilled quail with pork sausage, polenta & concord grapes just caught my eye). Prices look to have been corrected a touch as well if I'm not mistaken.

Any others dined here recently?

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