Must-See NoLIta and Little Italy
by Christopher Wallace, 03/19/2013
Torrisi Italian Specialties. Photo: Daniel Krieger
If Italian dining in Little Italy is experiencing a renaissance, then Torrisi Italian Specialties on Mulberry Street is the movement's Sistine Chapel. Set in an unassuming storefront, with design details including lace curtains and mismatched china, Torrisi evokes the supper clubs that once dominated the area. But chef/owners Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone eschew the area's orthodoxy of red-sauce eateries, providing instead seven- and 20-course tasting menus that recall the tradition of home-cooked Sunday suppers. Adhering to the ethical law laid down by grandmothers (and now locavores) everywhere—to use only the freshest local ingredients, prepared simply—Torrisi's menu nods at the Old World while simultaneously embracing the New. Among its offerings are sheep's milk gnocchi with chestnut ragu; duck maraschino; and lemon cake. By day, the owners' diner Parm, next door, serves up fare like meatball subs and chicken parm elevated into the sublime.
For more traditionally Italian fare, Peasant does exceptional rustic Tuscan—the menu includes bistecca alla Fiorentina, wood-baked skate, burrata with roasted tomatoes—in a cozy, glitteringly lit space on Elizabeth Street, and Keith McNally's trattoria Pulino's never misses. Lombardi's is said to be the first pizzeria in the City (and, thus, the entire United States), and it's still among the best Neapolitan-style pizza joints around. But the modern-style pies at the nearby Rubirosa give the venue a run for its money.