Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Morandi Review

It's packed late on a weekday night. And those walking in the door still weather a wait —even actors Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts. It's that type of restaurant where you will spot celebrities, where couples try to have a romantic dinner, unsuccessfully (it's just not possible with all the noise), or girls have their night out. That's the scene at Morandi, an Italian restaurant in the West Village, and it fits right into Keith McNally's restaurant répetoire, which also includes Balthazar. Perhaps partly owing to the allure of the buzz, his restaurants, though popular, seem to produce mixed reviews on the food front. That's not so unusual when it can seem like more attention is focused on producing the scene, one where if you're not "somebody" you might expect to be shunned or ignored.

Don't fall into that stereotype with Morandi. Peer beyond the surface and you'll find that there's good food and the service isn't so bad, but for some slowness on account of how busy they are.

The burrata cheese with roasted cherry tomatoes “on the vine” was wonderfully creamy and salty.

The red pepper combined well with the grilled squid, which was also seasoned with capers and olives. Thankfully, for me, the capers and olives weren't strong flavors. 

I really liked Morandi's version of spaghetti with with clams, white wine and green garlic. The garlic was fairly mild, enough to flavor the dish, but not so much that it'd stay with me for hours after.

The seafood ravioli were stuffed with a chunky, filling combination of shrimp, lobster and scallop and topped with tomato & fennel.

The meatballs with pine nuts and raisins were good, but could have used a side of pasta or some carb to accompany them.

Hand-rolled spaghetti with lemon and Parmesan had a thick, chewy texture, similar to bucatini, one of my favorite types of pasta. Otherwise, it was simply seasoned, heavy on the lemon.

For dessert, I recommend the ricotta fritters with cinnamon sugar. They come out incredibly hot; watch out or you'll burn your tongue. The ricotta seems to cut the sweetness of the sugar, making for a perfect balance.

The hazelnut chocolate cake with whipped cream wasn't bad and will do the job for a chocolate craving.

The profiteroles are topped with Sicilian pistachios and chocolate sauce with vanilla ice cream sandwiched in between the layers of pastry.

Morandi is a surprisingly good value, especially in this part of town. There are even affordable bottles of wine. Go hungry and go for the late dinner, so you can linger and watch the scene.

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