Michael White’s casual Italian in Soho, Morini Osteria’s aesthetic from the room to the menu is rustic, earthy and fun. Where Marea is his seafood queen, this is more soulful Italian. The stuff mom would make to fatten you up.
It’s a bustling room filled with a waitstaff eager to please. The Monster digs into the menu and finds many items he’ll be sampling.
The mare salad will have to be saved for another day. It’s an Adriatic-style seafood salad with olives, lemon and capers. So too will the Ventresca, an olive oil poached tuna belly with pickled red onion, fagioli. Unfortunately, there will not be room today to get the Polletto, a pan-seared cornish hen, cippolini, mushrooms and brussel sprouts. They have a selection of mostly meat based pastas like the gnocchi with fennel sausage, mushroom, escarole, white wine or the garganelli with cream, truffle butter, radicchio, proscuitto along with fish and meat dishes. Perhaps polpette piadina is to your liking. Proscuitto and mortadella meatballs, spinach pomodoro, mozzarella.
Instead, The Monster decides to sample the crostini on offer, artichoke and cranberry bean; salt cod, potato, lemon zest; duck confit, radicchio. All three are delicious but the duck takes the prize. On the crusty bread its flavors pack a whallop when drizzled with balsamic. The salt cod with the whipped potato is lighter by contrast and creamier while the artichoke adds a touch of sweetness from the cranberry. They are nicely balanced.
The casarecci alla vognole with clams, leeks, white wine and chile is wonderful and reminds The Monster of a dish he recently had at Margehrita in Ravello. The al dente pasta playing against the clams and the wine based sauce. The lovely foccacia bread did its job sopping up the remaining sauce.
Branzino with insalata mista, salsa verde is the last order. While also wonderful, this dish felt skimpy. Small piece of fish and even more meager salad. At the very least the salad should have been amped up as the plating looked off.
For dessert, the meringa alla spumone. A meringue, cherry lambrusco sorbetto, pistachio gelato, chocolate crema, amarena cherries. Perfect. Huge. Light and airy meringue topped by two wonderfully flavorful scoops of heaven.
Why go? Can’t eat at Marea every night.
Monster rating: 4/5 Monsters
218 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012