Torrisi Italian Specialties

I had been hearing whispers about Torrisi Italian Specialties since it opened in the end of 2009. By the time they started their tasting menu in 2010, it had officially piqued my interest. By December of 2013, I knew I had to eat there. So I booked my reservation and eagerly awaited the meal.

A little place in NoLita (the neighborhood just North of Little Italy,) Torrisi has just a handful of tables. It's small, but charming, and the service is friendly if not overly warm. The menu for the day is posted on a chalkboard wall and there were only a few choices to make, duck pasta or gnocchi, monkfish or oxtail, the rest was out of your hands.

When the starters came out, I was quite a happy camper. The quality of ingredients was top notch and while the dishes missed the surprise or whimsy that a great tasting menu brings, they were well executed nonetheless. Texture, acidity, richness, were all in perfect balance and while there were no revelations at the table, each dish was a harmonious whole, well-seasoned, well-made and simply delicious.

As always, my dear hubby was my partner in crime for the meal, so between the two of us, I got to try both pasta and entree options. The duck pasta was lovely, but the sheep's milk ricotta dressed with a silky chestnut sauce was the star dish. I don't think I've had chestnuts before or since used so successfully in a savory dish. Their sweetness was a perfect contrast to the hint of tang in the sheep's milk. Their richness enveloped the light-as-air texture of the gnocchi. I see that the sheep's milk gnocchi have continued on their menu and I don't imagine it'll be removed for a long while.

When the two entrees were placed in front of us, I was more excited to try the oxtail. The smell alone called you in with its spicy perfume. But after tasting both, I was quite surprised that it was the monkfish I greedily kept for myself, passing the oxtail to my husband who looked longingly after the fish on my plate. He assured me he didn't mind, but I felt a hint of guilt as I finished the dish. Buttery, rich, unctuous with such delicate flavors so perfectly enhanced by the sauce and garnishes, I've been a monkfish fan ever since.

The last course was a play on cheesecake, called simply "ricotta." It was a happy sweet ending to a lovely meal, and like many of the dishes before it, was well-made and tasty if uninspired.

I was quite glad I went to Torrisi Italian Specialties. The gnocchi and the monkfish made the meal memorable and absolutely worth my while, and if you are interested in eating there, I highly recommend it. But unlike restaurants that make you eager to return, or excited to send others, I do feel as if it's a place I've checked off my list. There is no reason to return, and too many other restaurants yet to explore.

Torrisi Italian Specialties
250 Mulberry St. (between Prince and Spring)
New York, NY 10012

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