The Most Annoying Restaurant Review Ever 21

Posted by Foodie Buddha on July 20, 2011

inspired and thus restricted by CHOW, apologies on tense shifts

torrisi italian specialties

100 miles or more is a long way to travel for crazy delicious food cooked to perfection; but, according to some article whose whereabouts escape me, food focused vacations are on the rise.  That spike is directly related to the increased popularity of things like foodie culture, artisanal dishes, and the need to bask in the presence of the latest bad boy celebrity chef whose mug is as identifiable as Brad Pitt’s.

Few cities are worthy of such a commute, and it stands as no surprise that New York City is one of them.  Great restaurants dot the five boroughs of this metropolis like acne pocked Jessica Simpsons face back in the day (hell – it’s probably still there).  Heck, great restaurants are seemingly ubiquitous, so getting noticed is a tough job.  While other cities are consumed in food trucks, deconstructed dishes, and burgers from a wannabe gastropub, NYC’s attention span is short lived and symptomatic of ADHD.  Still, for those that do make waves, unctuous praise or a harsh scalding comes fast and furiously.

In 2010, Torrisi Italian Specialties, a quasi eponymous culinary mash-up, opened in New York’s Little Italy to the delight of critics and fans alike.  A sammie shop/Italian deli by day, by night, this small-seat vestibule of an eatery morphs into a not so hidden gem of addictive flavors and OMG moments.  At least, that’s what it did for me during my one meal there.  Festooned with hanging charcuterie, open-faced pantries, and tiles … lots and lots of tiles, Torrisi seems like a gem.

exposed cupboars at torrisi

By all accounts, Mario Carbone takes a back seat to Rich Torrisi in name only.  Otherwise, the Café Boulud/Del Posto veterans seem equally vital to the symphony of flavors produced both day and night.  While undoubtedly Italian in its origins, the [dinner] food at Torrisi comes with a most unique American sensibility.  Borrowing from the multi-cultural melting pot of this country, Carbone and Torrisi will often usurp techniques, spices, and other ingredients from cultures not so closely related to Italian.  And while Torrisi and Carbone aren’t quite the household monikers that are food fellows such as Keller, Bourdain, and Ripert, they certainly carry with them a certain panache and notoriety.

Some might not categorize Torrisi as a Haute Barnyard outfit, but I do and it wouldn’t be an egregious misappropriation of terminology if you did too.  In that respect, local and organic are in the place of pomp and circumstance.  And only the most ardent and militant interpreters of the locavore ideology should have a problem with Torrisi’s sourcing.  While much of what Torrisi offers is found nearby, not all veggies and fish are raised fresh on the island of Manhattan.

By all accounts, Torrisi is an authentic Italian deli from 11a-4p. [As my sole visit took place during dinner,  I would suggest you look elsewhere for any more details about that.] But by night, when soothed by the undulating light from the street and aided by the foodcentric banter of those expecting their forthcoming meal, Torrisi settles in as slick, calm after the storm Italian restaurant.  While diners sit yearning for a surreal taste sensation, don’t be surprised if the cheerful anxiety becomes palpable.

green eggs and lamb at torrisi

Tucking into a seat at night is the result of both patience and perseverance.  At least, it was when I visited back in March.  At that time, you had to show up at 5 to get your name on the list for one of three offered seatings.  It sounds like they will still take your number, but I’m not sure if the 5 o’clock lineup is still in vogue as they may have ditched the fixed seating schedule.  Bottom line: inspect Torrisi’s policies page with care well in advance of your desired dinning night.

By the time our mealtime was upon us, I was thoroughly engrossed in the anticipation.  As we sat down to our four course, $50/head prix fixe meal, I could have sworn my heart engorged itself on account of said anticipation.  Needless to say, unless you are the most voracious of eater, you won’t go away hungry despite the meals disconcertingly affordable prices.

Soon after, we were greeted kindly by our server and there began our true introduction to the story of Torrisi.  Come to find out, Mario and Rich are men of the people and much of their staff came with them from the low ranks of Del Posto and Café Boulud.  Now that’s loyalty.  And though some of the menu items are regurgitated from time to time, one thing seems sure: despite the claims of nearly everyone else who has written on Torrisi (and I do mean everyone), there is no “staple of the house.”  Instead, there are a multitude of toothsome morsels that both come and go.

As we were lead through the subversively humorous menu and with only the entrée to debate, I began to realize just how much I really want to like this place.  Soon after, me and my trio eating brigade began to munch on a little garlic toast and the night took off.  Our table was eventually the arena for the game that is Torrisi.  Covered with the now famous warm mozzarella in thistle cream, cucumbers “New Yorkese,” blackened mackerel with pickled eggplant, and the overtly comedic green eggs and lamb, I had to remind myself just how revelatory this experience was.

house-made mozzarella at torrisi

While not every bite of an antipasti was met with glorious and freewheeling abandon, not a single dish was anything close to inedible.  I took great comfort in the buoyant resistance of the warm mozzarella, which when joined with the infused thistle cream and touch of nutty olive oil became a masterpiece.   Don’t be afraid to slurp the remnants and sing its praises.  Meanwhile, the green eggs and lamb defined playfulness and I’ll simply say that this would have been a piquant party in your mouth had you joined us for the meal.

Of all the dishes past and present, the mozzarella is perhaps most representative of this eatery’s ethos.  Italian food is famous for its use of what is readily available, and in homage to that ideal, Torrisi makes much of its products in house.  No importing here!

On to the house-made ricotta gnocchi with cauliflower and pine nuts.  So soft that it cuts with a fork, it was a true high just before our meal’s only short coming.  As the table was split evenly between John Dory Francese (get it?) and some Veal Pot Roast with Flag Sauces, I had the opportunity to nibble on both.  The veal was mine and I ripped into it like you wouldn’t believe.  A meltingly tender mouth feel, I couldn’t help but notice the momentarily slack jawed gentleman to my left who stares as it falls off the bone.  The John Dory was redolent of that buttery goodness of any good Francese, so while not a particularly healthy dish, it was a nice adventure.

None of our entrées were piping hot and in fact, all were lukewarm.  Annealed as if a metal sauté pan, something got mixed up in the kitchen.  Still, these minor misgivings did little to dampen the thought that went into the construction of the menu.

dessert plate at torrisi

Our meal came to a crescendo with an awesome little plate of Italian baked goods.  While I found the cloyingly sweet cream puffs a little too full of gooeyness, bites of cannoli, tricolors, petite fours (for lack of a better term), and brittle were all successful.

More than once during our visit, I heard a squeal or two from a neighboring table.  While nothing in the vocal octave of orgasmic Sally (hint: movies), if I could translate such bodily noises, I’d think these people had died and gone to heaven.

In my opinion, the food at Torrisi might not be conceptually decadent, but it is gutsy and oh so yummers … or yummilicious … or yummo … or perhaps the more reserved “yummy.”  It wasn’t to die for and perhaps not historic either; but, yumminess dominated while the few underwhelming moments passed through my tummy without so much as a second thought.

Despite having napped during the day and having to listen to more than one furious burst of a taxi cab horn, I slept soundly in my kingdom for the week with no conception of the burden that was to befall me during this digital journal scribbling.  After dreaming extensively, the next morning I seemed inspired to declare “I have seen God, and it came in the form of sinful, conjured up images of Torrisian mastery.”  While my more mundane sensibilities prevent me from equating my meal to that of Greek ambrosia, the rest of the day was spent face-planted in my laptop, refreshing my browser for the earliest possible glimpse of Torrisi’s next terrific song.  Thankfully, I had Sancho for moral support.

SANCHO!!!!!!

FOR THE FULL ALBUM, VISIT
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Torrisi Italian Specialties Address & Information

250 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012 // 212.965.0955 // website // menu (changes daily)
Torrisi Italian Specialties on Urbanspoon

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  • alwayshungry

    Giggle. : )

    • http://www.foodiebuddha.com Foodie Buddha

      Much oblidged!

  • http://twitter.com/trepverter queen of tarts

    this is actually better than 95% of reviews on yelp.

    • http://www.foodiebuddha.com Foodie Buddha

      Thanks Queen!!!! This made me have one of those sinister laugh moments whereby the dude at the table next to me in this coffee shop definitely looked a little scared!

    • Frank Farter

      I would take that as an insult.

  • Jennifer

    This is on purpose right?  If so… love!

    • http://www.foodiebuddha.com FoodieBuddha

      Indeed it was Jennifer! Though despite the blowhard-esque language – Torrisi was really fun. Thanks for reading!

    • http://www.foodiebuddha.com Foodie Buddha

      Well, using the grandiose language of a blowhard was indeed intentional, but so to was the emphatic praise of Torrisi … it was a blast to eat there. Thanks for reading!

  • PDX Yelper Todd

    I just threw up in my mouth.  This idiot needs to have her smart phone taken away from her or shoved up her Yummilicious Rectum

    • http://www.foodiebuddha.com Foodie Buddha

      Not sure who you are referring to by “her” but might i suggest that next time you intend to throw up – you simply relax your jaw and just let it happen.  Swallowing your own puke is not a good thing.

  • Guest

    even more annoying: http://www.ericeatsout.com  His writing is soooo bad.

  • PDX Yelper Todd

    my bad.. I just realized this was a “joke” review… and that you are a he and not a she.

    Thx for the vomiting advice.. I’ll keep that one in mind for the next similar review :)

    all the best.

    • http://www.foodiebuddha.com Foodie Buddha

      Well, the language was certainly fluffed, but it was accurate in that Torrisi was great fun.  I had to borrow a camera which didn’t take great shots in low light :-(.  That being said, I’m no Cartier-Bresson on my best days!  Thanks for reading, PDX has some awesome food.

  • PDX Yelper Todd

    BTW.. my fellow Portland Yeeps have informed me that my comments do not represent PDX Yelp in the manner in which they are used to be representing.

    I will no longer post comments with any Yelp references to ensure that our high standards are maintained.

  • http://rachelfinn.net Rachel

    So very good and so very sad all at once! I came across the Chow annoying words piece a few days ago and then yesterday read something possibly more heinous in a review of candy shops in the Southwest. The rest was forgettable and I only wish this bit: “…delectable to my tongue.” an unfortunate phrase now lodged in my brain would also vanish into thin air or something.  :(

    Now if only you had tried to set a mood as if you were describing that “haute barnyard” aesthetic by the fireside with a snifter of the finest brandy in your hand…Could you work that into the next one?

  • Lois

    Bravo! And I don’t mean the network.

  • Frank Farter

    I just threw up in PDX Yelper Todd’s mouth and holding his mouth shut.  Banana fish coffee gummy bear blend.  Enjoy.

  • Motorcyclestuckinthemud

    Kill yourself and f@$k the body

  • How Meta

    If this were a real review I’d skip it because of it’s length. Since it’s a fake review I’ll skip it because of it’s irrelevance.

    • http://www.foodiebuddha.com Foodie Buddha

      actually – it’s a legitimate review … not knowing how you got here, the introduction provides a link to a list on article about the worst phrases to use in a restaurant review. the length is, at least in part, on account of me shoving all 78 in here for humor. I also took it upon myself to use lots of other fluffy words. All that aside, the recap is an honest review of my visit to Torissi.

    • http://www.foodiebuddha.com Foodie Buddha

      actually – it’s a legitimate review … not knowing how you got here, the introduction provides a link to a list on article about the worst phrases to use in a restaurant review. the length is, at least in part, on account of me shoving all 78 in here for humor. I also took it upon myself to use lots of other fluffy words. All that aside, the recap is an honest review of my visit to Torissi.


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