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Aug 10, 2007 02:42 PM

Osteria Mozza - Almost Believe the Hype (w/ pics)

My husband and I dined at Osteria Mozza last Saturday. The review is here with pics:

With all the hype, there was almost no chance Osteria Mozza could live up to the unrealistic expectations I put upon it, i.e., to knock my socks off even though it had only been open three weeks. However, it did impress me, and better than that, it excited me. I am already deciding what to order on my next visit...

Disclaimer: This was only my first visit--lately I prefer to eat somewhere at least twice before posting but I could not resist given how H-O-T this restaurant is.

SETTING - Wow. I expected, well, an osteria. That is not what I got. Osteria Mozza is glamorous. It is grand. And the energy is contagious. At least 20 foot ceilings, which are painted chocolate brown from 2/3 of the way up to the wall and seem to add a degree of warmth. The space is large, but not overwhelmingly so. The marble counters are classy, and there is lots of bar space, which they will no doubt need given the difficulty of getting a reservation there.

We had an 8:00 reservation but were not seated until 9:15. The restaurant apologized profusely and assured us they would make it up to us (more on that later). We had a nice table in the main room along the leather banquette.

SERVICE - James, a server we recalled from the Hungry Cat, took good care of us. He gave great suggestions and (between he and the gentleman refilling our water regularly) never missed a beat. He was also relaxed while still being professional. Wine-wise, David Rosoff, the manager, helped us because the sommelier was busy. A stroke of luck indeed. We considered ordering a Lagrein, which we really enjoyed at the Pizzeria, but went a different way and were big fans of the $50 Montepulciano we ordered.

FOOD - The menu is larger than I expected and offers lots of tempting choices. We were starving when we sat down, and were glad when the amuse bouche of mozzarella rolled around olives, peppers and greens arrived. It was tasty.

The restaurant also sent over two glasses of prosecco. My stomach was so empty I only took a couple sips, but it was very nice.

What we had:

--Grilled Octopus with Celery, Potato and Lemon. I had heard this was a great appetizer, and it was just as advertised. Very tender octopus, and the preparation complimented the octopus very well. My favorite octopus dish right now is at All'Angelo--a carpaccio--but this is one of the best cooked octopus dishes I have had. A winner.

--Proscuitto and Melon. This was a complimentary appetizer due to our long wait. I purposely did not order the proscuitto because I wanted to try their more unique dishes, but next time I will because it was fantastic. Perfectly sliced and melt in your mouth delicious.

--Burrata from Basilicata with Leeks. The presentation of this cheese was fantastic, but--and I never thought I'd say this about burrata--I don't think I would order this again. The consistency was far denser than any burrata I had tasted before. I prefer a buttery, creamy texture, whereas this was more like the burrata I'm accustomed to crossed with cream cheese (in terms of texture, not flavor). They have 2 or 3 other burrata options, and I have been told the one with bacon is excellent, so next time I will likely order that. Note the olive oil and leeks were lovely, and the grilled bread accompanying the cheese crusty and charred just the way I like it. Also, my husband found the different texture to be a plus, not a minus.

--Orecchiette with sausage and swiss chard. Like the octopus, this dish had gotten rave reviews from most reviewers, and I have to agree. I in general prefer a more delicate noodle (like a tagliatelle or pappadelle for ex.) but the flavors were just fabulous. The sausage is magnificent and the breadcrumbs they sprinkle on top at the table provide a nice bit of crunch. A true crowd pleaser.

--Fresh Ricotta and Egg Raviolo with Brown Butter. This may have been the dish of the night. I loved the stronger flavors of the orechiette, but this was just so elegant. The delicate pasta, silkiness of the egg and ricotta, rich butter sauce, subtle flavor of sage, and pungent cheese lightly grated on top was a stellar combination. I've also never had a pasta dish like this before. This is probably not for everyone, but we loved it.

--Braised Beef with Polenta. We were really too full for this but wanted to try it, so we took most of it home. Oh boy is it rich. I always love polenta with short ribs, and that is what this dish reminded me of. It's not unusual, but it's damn delicious. I think only someone with a monstruous appetite could eat this entire dish plus a pasta though.

--Olive oil gelato with rosemary olive oil cakes and rosemary brittle. Having heard as much as I have about the olive oil gelato made famous in Batali's NYC establishments, I tried to make room for dessert. This was the perfect dish given how full we were. The gelato was creamy and satisfying, and the brittle was nice for rosemary-lovers like us. The cakes were fine, nothing amazing. This dish does not rival the Budino next door, but it's very good.

--Cappuccino (Intelligentsia espresso). It's so nice when restaurants train their staff to make a proper cappuccino, and this was better than any coffee place in town.

To our shock, our 75 min wait was rewarded not only with glasses of prosecco and an appetizer. Osteria Mozza also comp-ed our wine, a first for me. How about that? Makes you not mind waiting one bit.

Location: At the corner of Highland and Melrose. Most of you know this, but there's walk-in seating at the bar, and reservations are VERY hard to come by. They employ the French Laundry and Babbo method so call a month before you want to go at 10 am when the reservation lines open. Happy eating!

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    1. Wow! that IS nice!

      I wanna go there so they can make me wait and comp me something nice like that.
      Good service, eventually, and an honest, kind management is a wonderful thing

      1 Reply
      1. re: Diana

        osteria mozza is pretty approachable. arrive early (before 6:30 or so) and sit at the cheese bar where nancy directs traffic. no reservations required. service, even at the bar, is exceptional. highly recommended.

      2. Great review- thanks for posting!! I cannot wait to go here with my husband.

        1. My boyfriend and I have a reservation for this Saturday at 7:45 pm and I was wondering if you think it would be better to forgo the table and sit at the bar.

          3 Replies
          1. re: umami

            No! Do not give up that table. You will love eating in the dining room.

            1. re: umami

              Agree! Those reservations are golden. Hold onto it.

            2. The space is intriguing and feels like an art deco bar in Manhattan. The vibe and energy were fantastic. We arrived 30 minutes early for our 8:45 Saturday reservation and settled up at the very cool looking bar for a drink. Our cocktail waitress was incredibly nice and helpful as she gave us multiple tastes of wines to make sure we picked something we liked and despite being very busy she checked in multiple times to make sure we liked what we got and that we didn’t need anything else. We each had a carafe (250ml) and they ran $16-$18 each.

              Despite being warned that they were running a bit behind schedule, we were seated just about on time (less than 5 minutes late). Bread service was prompt (though they never brought olive oil) and the server was prompt, friendly, and very helpful (he did a fantastic job helping us select our meals by asking about our general preferences and discussing suggested menu items).

              I’m rating our dishes 1 - 10 (10 being amazing)

              (4) Chef's Complimentary Dish $0
              Stuzzichino, mozzarella with sweet basil leaves, dried tomato and olives and olive oil. Nothing special, but a nice start.

              (5) Burrata with fennel and olive oil $15
              It was good, but not amazing as parts were a little tough. Surprisingly huge portion. I would recommend trying something more unique from the cheese bar.

              (9) Grilled Octopus with potatoes, celery & lemon $16
              This redfines octopus. The consistency was amazing (not chewy at all…almost like steak) and the taste was fantastic. My wife does not usually like octopus, but was practically orgasmic over it. This was the highlight of the meal.

              (9) Gnocci with a meat ragout $18
              The gnocci itself was the perfect consistency and the sauce was a fantastic compliment.

              (5) Guinea Fowl Crostone with liver pancetta sauce $26
              I’ve heard this is a must have dish (along with the pork), but I was not impressed. The guinea was very good (dark meat) but the liver pancetta sauce was overwhelming at times and definitely dominated the meal. I like it, but it tasted like something I could get at the local deli.

              (8) Cioccolato $12
              I am a bittersweet chocolate fan and this was basically a bittersweet flourless chocolate cake down very very well! Great end to the meal.
              I’ve read reviews complaining about the price and portions, but I disagree with both. I rate the overall experience an 8.5. It was a great meal in a magnificent environment with superb service. The amount of food was perfect too and the entire bill came to about $160 including tip.