I dug this post out of the archives researching my early November trip - I've been to Babbo a handful of times, as well as Scarpetta, Mailalino, and (now closed) Convivio.
I'm looking for a place where apps and pastas will be ordered, but no mains. On my short list are Il Mulino, Ai Fiori, and Osteria Morini. I'm also considering Rosemary's, but it's so new and trendy. Any advice for purely pasta deliciousness?
There was a definitive post (and I mean definitive) about a year ago on this board that I cant find right now. Try a search and look for a long thread, since a lot of us weighed in on this place. It was a great post & maybe someone else here can find and link it for you -- I'd carry it with me to the restaurant.
re: Steve R.
Found it but couldnt get it to link, so I copied and pasted it instead:
Subject: Re(2): Il Mulino : Visiting LA Hound Asks "What to Get?"
From: email@example.com (Caseophile)
Posted: May 06, 2004 at 19:52:59
In Reply To: Re(1): Il Mulino : Visiting LA Hound Asks "What to Get?"
Posted by Evan on May 06, 2004 at 16:21:58
Though my official title on this board is Chief Apologist for Il Mulino, I think I can moonlight as an ordering advisor as well. I'll second Evan's comments, and offer a few more.
As much as I love Il Mulino (and it is one of my very favorite restaurants in NY), I have to admit that it currently seems to be in a slump, foodwise. I speculate that this may be related to temporary or permanent relocation of key personnel to the new Dallas branch. On the bright side, IM's reservations and seating procedures, which have been the subject of some serious flaming on this board, have also been greatly renovated of late.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR ENJOYING DINNER AT IL MULINO
1. Plan to be very hungry, but reasonably well-hydrated, when you arrive. A dinner at Il Mulino is like an athletic event, and you will have lost the game before it even starts if you show up without an adequate appetite.
2. I suggest that gentlemen wear a dark suit or dark-colored jacket, with no necktie.
3. Early antipasto management is the key to success at crunch time. Upon being seated, an ever-increasing array of antipasti will arrive gradually on your table, usually before you even have a menu. My advice: beware the bread. Don't touch the regular pieces of bread, as they're simply not worth the space they'll occupy in your stomach. The little fried-in-olive-oil pieces are the most addictive. Rookies fill up on these, and then they're out of the game before even they've even ordered. Eat no more than one early on, as they'll still be in good shape throughout in the meal. However, eat the garlic bread while it's still hot, because that doesn't keep so well. The spicy zucchini, bruschetta, and parmigiano-reggiano are worth eating, but you may not find the salami to be worth its meager stomach-occupying volume.
4. The menu is a prop. There's nothing in there that you need to see, and it's almost impossible to read anyway. You can look at it if you want to be polite, but your success or failure depends instead on the guidance of your captain. Historically there are only two captains, who are there every night when the restaurant is open (although I think I may have seen a third one filling in on Fernando's half of the room recently).
5. The "specials" consist of a few standard items, plus whatever the captain decided to mention at that moment. The truth is that the kitchen will prepare pretty much anything you want, however you want it, as long as it conforms to general red sauce Italian guidelines and is properly conceptualized by your captain. So, discuss your meal with your him, and he'll make sure you're happy. Note that the prices of the specials won't be mentioned, and they are likely to be quite expensive (sometimes $60). On the other hand, each main course special contains enough food for at least two normal meals. So, either share main courses between two people, or plan to take a lot of food home.
6. Appetizer recommendations: (1) Porcini ravioli. This is served in a thick, oozing, cheesy sauce incorporating parmigiano, champagne and truffles. It is always listed among the specials. (2) Fusili special, with a red sauce containing homemade sausage. For me this serves as a nice foil for the porcini ravioli. It actually wasn't so good the last time I had it. (3) Langostini with risotto. Another perpetual special. These little fellas will be brought by your table for viewing before your meal. Share a pasta with someone else, or better yet, have the captain mix quarter-portions of two different pastas for more variety. I believe that any of these items can also be ordered as a main course, if you so desire.
7. Main course recommendations: (1) Veal chop with sage and potatoes. A magnificent dish, my all-time Il Mulino favorite, it almost killed me the first time I ordered it. It too had declined in quality when I most recently tried it, and frankly you may be better off that way, because it won't be so wonderful that you'll flirt with serious gastric injury by trying to eat a whole portion. This is simply not possible for a human being. For extra safety, consider having the captain split the portion onto two plates, one of which will be kept out of your reach in front of someone who shares it with you. (2) Osso bucco. Though I prefer the veal chop in general, this can have a particularly wonderful sauce which may be to your liking if you're in the mood for a more heavily sauced dish. (3) Rack of lamb. I do like the rack of lamb, although I prefer the two dishes mentioned above. (4) Dover sole meuniere (or prepared in any other way agreeable to you and your captain). Il Mulino does usually have the most beautiful sole around, in my experience. Ask how it is that night. (5) Shrimp fra diavolo. A non-special that Claudio suggested to me one night years ago. The combination of shellfish and spicy sauce makes this dish a particularly nasty partner for the big red wine you're bound to order. But I've enjoyed this very much from time to time.
8. Enjoy (or at least respectfully regard) the parsley. It took me a while, but I eventually came to notice how uncommonly robust and full-flavored Il Mulino's parsley garnish is.
9. Accept the free grappa that you'll be offered after the main course, then take only one tiny sip at a time.
10. Dessert recommendations: tiramisu or cheesecake, each of which is served with zabaglione. If you're in the mood for something lighter, just order mixed berries with zabaglione.