REVIEW #89

Osteria Morini

Michael White’s rustic paean to the cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy serves some of the very best pasta in NYC. White worked for seven years under the tutelage of Gianlugi Morini, the founder of the estimable San Domenico restaurant in Imola, near Bologna, and here replicates that style and manner of cuisine. The décor has also been heavily influenced by the region: There are photos from restaurants around Bologna dotting the walls, reclaimed farmhouse timbers from the 18th century lining the ceiling, and diminutive tables and chairs built for the restaurant in Emilia-Romagna which anyone inclined to a Larry Craig-like wide stance is going to have difficulty squeezing in-between the legs of.

In addition to the tables being cramped, the restaurant is perpetually mobbed, sometimes attaining such zoo-like heights as to be prohibitively claustrophobic. And there are some other negatives, mainly service kinks that need to be worked out: We were once not seated until 40 minutes after our reservation, nor were we asked how we wanted our ribeye cooked (it came out medium rare), nor were we offered cheese or pepper with our pasta (this may have been deliberate and, if so, fine – it didn’t need any). The greatest sacrilege of all came when our wine was served in stemless wine tumblers, a trendy fashion statement that no true oenophile would ever endorse. This was strange, as someone had clearly taken care to curate some very interesting wines, including a marvelous Vermentino Nero (a relatively rare grape varietal) available by the glass.

However, the restaurant’s merits are so prodigious as to dwarf whatever peccadilloes one has endured. The food is exceptionally good, down to even the most trivial offerings: it is not often that we take occasion to remark upon a restaurant’s bread, however Osteria Morini surely must be among the top 10 restaurants in NYC in terms of the pure delectability of its table bread. The earthy, rustic pastas are the best in the city in this price bracket: a golden tagliatelle with a ragù antica that contains beef, pork, veal, chicken livers and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; a garganelli with cream, radicchio, truffle butter and prosciutto; and a triangoli della nonna with braised beef, sugo di arrosto and a toasted Brussels sprout leaf. There are also delicious non-pasta items, including an outrageously decadent and heavenly parmigiano-truffle custard with wild mushroom sugo (the sformato), a crunchy golden porchetta, and an Adriatic-style seafood salad with scallops, calamari, olives, lemon and capers. Though more unadorned than its genteel cousins, Marea and Ai Fiori, Osteria Morini serves hearty and deeply satisfying dishes of such technique, brilliance of composition and sheer deliciousness as to merit recognition in our top 100.

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INFORMATION

SoHo
218 Lafayette St.
New York (nr. Kenmare St.)
(212) 965-8777
Mon-Thurs, 11:30am-3:30pm, 5pm-11pm; Fri, 11:30am-3:30pm, 5pm-midnight; Sat, 11:30am-3:30pm, 5pm-midnight; Sun, 11:30am-3:30pm, 5pm-10pm
    Michael White, Chef
    Bill Dorrler, Chef de Cuisine

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