If you read this website regularly, you are already aware that we're Michael White junkies. Homeboy makes our favorite pasta on the isle of Manhattan. We'd rather eat at one of White's fine establishments -Marea, Convivio, Alto and now Osteria Morini - than at a Batali joint any day of the week.
So you can imagine that his first venture south of Midtown was probably the fall restaurant opening that we were most looking forward to. To put it lightly, expectations were sky high. Luckily, Morini did not let us down. The food, though heavy at times, lives up to what we've come to expect from a chef who seems primed to be a household name in no time. We also like the rustic but refined atmosphere of the new joint. Our only issue starts and ends with the menu. It's overwhelming and there's no prix fixe option to help you plan your attack. We know this is his meat-centric restaurant, and look, we love eating animals, but the carne takes the focus away from the best part, which is still the pasta. This menu would greatly benefit from some kind of mid-level, affordable tasting menu with a starter, two pastas and a meat, just like at Convivio. But since you don't have that luxury right now, we recommend going hard on the antipasta and pasta sections and lighter on the meat and entree options - ordering everything to share. On our first trip, we severely under-ordered on pasta and over-ordered on meat. Don't do that.
Menu gripes aside, pretty much everything at Morini is fantastic, and the restaurant is more our speed than any of Michael White's uptown joints. As much as we back the guy, his other places aren’t exactly cut from the same cloth we are. But now that he’s finally untucked his shirt and made it downtown, we can start spending some real quality time together. That is, until we've blown all of our money on pasta.
We sampled a little bit of everything: Prosciutto di Parma (24 mesi), Salame Romagnolo (salt & pepper cured salame), Mortadello (delicate pork roll from Bologna), Sopressata (spicy cured pork sausage) and more. It's all awesome.
Yup, bufala mozzarella happens, delicately and deliciously. Get in there.
An insanely rich, sweet and meaty duck liver mousse served in a jar. Spread it on a crostini and act civilized, even though you'll want to shovel it directly into your mouth with a spoon.
An Adriatic style seafood salad of scallops, shrimp, sepia, calamari tentacles and sometimes octopus with light white wine and lemon juice. An absolute must order.
Soft, spectacular ricotta dumplings in a pomodoro sauce. Not his personal best, but up there towards the top.
Absolutely ridiculous. These plump, braised beef filled tortelli will rival any meat filled pasta you'll ever put in your mouth. God are these things good.
Supersized, yellow and green elbow macaroni in a creamy pork sausage and tomato sauce. Definitely get this one cued up.
Moist, flavorful and everything you'd want from branzino, the problem is it got kind of lost on the table among so many good appetizers, pastas and meats. They now have a seafood soup of shrimp, scallops, clams, & mussels that I'm definitely checking next time.
With so many good options to choose from - pork skewers, sausage, chop, roasted porchetta, porterhouse, ribeye, short ribs - it's hard to focus. Chances are, you'll be satisfied with whatever direction your belly takes you. We certainly were, with our monster veal chop that we were still eating for lunch the next day.
Nothing fancy, just a simple heap of meat dumped right off the grill and onto the plate. There's something for everyone: pork sides, sweet sausage, lamb chop and skirt steak. The sausage and steak were particularly excellent.