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L’Orcio in New Haven: Best Italian Restaurant I Know

L’Orcio in New Haven (806 State Street, New Haven, CT; 203-777-6670; http://www.lorcio.com) is so so killer.

I hit it on my Chow Tour, and you can read about it and see photos toward the bottom of this page: http://www.chow.com/tour/327

But the Chow Tour was like an altered state of mind, so I'd been itching to return under more normal circumstances. I beelined, on a trip to Boston, unswayed by much tempting chow en route, and headed straight to L'Orcio, where I ate lunch in a dismayingly empty room, my eyes blazing as they do when I experience the rare certainty that Nobody Anywhere Is Eating Any Better Than I Am In This Very Moment.

Having stuck to pasta last time, this time I got veal. I forgot what they called it (not Francese), but it was medallions, very lightly breaded and sauteed in wine sauce. This subtle dish tends to be either clunky (iffy quality veal with hasty sauce) or soulless (over-tenderized flavorless veal with overly rarified sauce). Here it was perfection. The meat had personality, the sauce was deft, it all came together - the sum even better than the wonderful parts. It had wok breath.

This was served with potatoes roasted so carefully that I could visualize the chef peering into the broiler with unbroken attention to catch the perfect microsecond of brownness. And with a pile of perfect polished (but non-prissy) spinach leaves. The waiter recommended a white wine, and it was as delicious as all their wine selections plus paired beautifully.

There was one other man in the restaurant with me, and we exchanged feelings of regret that there wasn't more business here. Where else is anyone eating that's better than this?

The ambiance matches the food. Nice, sleek, carefully done but also comfortable and laid back. Not trying to impress...trying to please.

I haven't had a bite or sip here that was less than sublime - though it's not a super rarified sublimity. As I said in my trip report, this is soulful lusty grandmotherish cooking prepared with sophisticated skill and subtlety. It's comfort food and serious cuisine both. It's perfect, and I've never before found this good an Italian restaurant (nor ANY restaurant that's much better).

It's worth a trip from anywhere. I'm so glad my friend Jim introduced me to it.

ciao

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  1. Wow-- never even heard of it and I'm a shoreliner! Web site looks awesome-- I will be making a reservation and reporting back.

    1 Reply
    1. Lots of different opinions is what makes this site work, so thanks for piping in with another view!

      Just as an update, I've been back to L'Orcio since posting this, and was so stunned (as I had been the previous two times) that this restaurant is now in my short list of regular haunts, in spite of being a 90 minute drive from my apartment.

      Vive la difference of opinion! :)

      1. We dined at L'Orcio on Sat evening and had a wonderful meal. It was a funny beginning....all of us looked and looked (and looked!) at the menu and the specials and could not decide what to order. To say that they "understate" each dish's description would be an "understatement!" That being said, everything we ate was absolutely delicious. The young waitress was very accommodating (especially considering none of us could make up our minds!).
        I had a tuna special and it was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. My wife had a pasta special - one of our favorite dishes - Penne A'matraciana - and we have nver had better. Our friends both had fish dishes - the Chilean sea bass (from the regular menu) and the branzino, which was on the specials page. Both were wonderful.
        Our only quibble was at 8 pm, in a half enpty dining room, we were told they had run out of Caesar salad!!!!! Go figure!

        2 Replies
        1. re: lsnhc

          I'm going to have to agree with the positive posters here. My wife and I have eaten at L'Orcio numerous times, and it has never come close to disappointing. Top notch food, efficient and unobtrusive service, and a great dining room make for one of the best meals in New Haven.

          1. re: vonmoishe

            My husband and I attended a conference in New Haven last weekend and ate at L'Orcio per Jim's suggestion. Holy cow, was it fantastic. My husband has raved about his main dish (spinach stuffed ravioli) for the past four days now!

            The woman who ran the B&B we stayed at had never heard of L'Orcio, eventhough it was only about a mile away. I wonder if the empty dining room is due to lack of exposure (sadly, it was also quite empty when we were there.)

            I highly recommend this fabulous restaurant... fantastic food and excellent service all around.

        2. I just ate at L Orcio last week for the first time. Excellent. Excellent. Excellent. We got the gnochhi, caprese salad, and ravioli and enjoyed them. I wouldnt get their lemon tart though - too dry for my taste. Make reservations in advance to eat outside or by the window in the restaurant which are very pretty seats.

          1. Had dinner 2 weeks ago on a sunday place was full had to wait to be seated and it was well worth the wait. We had the spinach ravioli and a pappardelle special of the evening both were GREAT! Went back this tuesday for lunch it was a beautiful day outside and we dined in the garden really enjoyed the gnochhi with gorgonzola and cavatelli with a ragu. Although weather changing fast the garden really is a magnificant place to dine

            1. L'Orcio is an absolute gem. Excellent, simple, high quality food. I haven't had food this good since I got back from Italy. Not even in New York.

              3 Replies
              1. re: alicea

                We had lunch at L'Orcio yesterday arriving at noon to find only one other couple dining in the beautiful courtyard. We chose the dining room since the weather
                was hot and humid. Our waitress delivered our menus and in short order we received warm crusty Italian bread and cold butter. We decided to share an arugula salad with thinly sliced parmesan. The arugula were slightly wilted and the dressing complimented the inherent peppery taste. We each chose a daily speical, pollo saltimbocca, a perfect marriage chicken, sage, prosicutto and cheese. The 2 pieces of chicken breast on each plate were very thin, but managed to remain juicy. Overall the meal could not have been much more perfect.

                1. re: westie

                  I had a similar experience to you, westie, the place was empty for lunch yesterday but it was a gorgeous day and my friend and I sat in the garden and had a lovely meal: arugula salad, the housemade papardelle with mushrooms (yummy!) and we couldn't leave without trying the lemon tart (yummy x 2!). The whole meal was perfectly done and the service was just right, attentive but not too on top of us. Although I'd heard about this place a while ago, I'd never tried it (not being a huge fan of Italian food) but this exceeded my expectations! I almost hope it doesn't become too popular.......!

                  Also, there is parking in the lot across the street (the area around the restaurant is all permit parking).

                  1. re: zpatwa

                    I can't swear on a stack of bibles, but I think what you are saying is incorrect or misleading. We have dined there and at Christopher Martin's many times (for lunch and dinner), and have always found legal street parking on State Street. It is easier to find at lunch time.
                    We love L'Orcio, and I don't think you will find it over-run at lunch time anywhere in the near future. I've seen it packed (years ago) for dinner on a Friday or Saturday.
                    There is a partial cover and wisteria vines outdoors, plus fans overhead to make it a comfortable experience, even now. But, hey, I'm a Texan, and I don't think it's hot yet!