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Il Mulino- Food/Cost- Is it worth it?

I am considering Il Mulino for my mother's birthday as she adores Italian food. We have been to both Babbo and Del Posto already, so I want to try something different. We loved Babbo, however we felt that Del Posto was a big of a letdown based on portions and pricing. I know that Il Mulino is supposed to be extremely expensive but how much more expensive can it be than Del Posto? Also I have heard their portions are quite large which my mother would prefer compared to the " fu fu" type places that will serve you much smaller plates.

I do not mind paying for a great meal, but I want to make sure it IS a great meal. Seems like there are many mixed reviews on here about Il Mulino. People either absolutely love it or they just don't care for it at all- no middle ground.I value Zagat's opinions and they have yet to stray me wrong and they gave it an impressive 28 rating. Reservations seem impossible. Does this place live up to the hype or is it just resting on its laurels of the past?

Right now I have Gotham Bar and Grill booked (yes I know it is not Italian) and I will most likely stick with that. but I like having options to consider. I always do this to myself- beat myself up over where to go many weeks in advance- guess its a kind of "fun" way to torture myself lol.

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  1. Check the archives. I think you'll find the consensus on both parts is no. I wouldn't go near the place; I've been there twice but only eaten there once (neither time on my initiation, and the second time the service and placement of our table right by the kitchen inspired us to walk out). I'd call the time I actually ate there a completely underwhelming experience, and I was glad I wasn't paying. The second time was one of my worst NY restaurant experiences in 35 years.

    http://petercherches.blogspot.com

    1. Hey Steakrules,
      I'm firmly in the camp of Il Mulino lovers. I have been there three times and each time was fantastic. I've not eaten at Del Posto, so will hold off from trying to make any comparisons.

      First things first, you will spend a lot of money, but you will not go home hungry. It's a small place, and no interior designer has stepped foot inside the door for at least 30 years.

      For my money, the food is the best italian in the city. Granted they serve many of the classics which turns off some detractors who are looking for the latest & greatest, but Il Mulino does each dish very well. They will also come to the table prior to ordering and ask if you want antipasti for the table. Some see this as blatant upsell, but the antipasti is phenomenal, if expensive, and it comes out very quickly. Each time I'm there, I always complain that I'm full before I finish ordering my meal.

      All the entrees are very well prepared, and I've never been with anyone who has had one complaint about the food. I recommended it to a colleague to take his wife for their anniversary last month and they have been raving about it ever since. They had previously been to Del Posto, and thought il Mulino to be far and away the better choice.

      I know there are strong opionions out there who will disagree, I've just never had a bad experience, and it has been worth every penny.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Spends Rent on Food

        Thanks guys- This is exactly what I mean. Read the two above posts haha- One hated it and one LOVES it. It seems like if you are okay with the traditional Italian dishes and huge portions (parmigianas, marsalas, pastas) you will be satisfied. If you are looking for innovative cuisine like at Babbo and the new comers or smaller portions then you dislike it.

        1. re: Spends Rent on Food

          I'm with you. always been in the camp that loves it. Last time I posted about it, I got so much vitriol from others though..

          If you get through and get a reservation good luck!

        2. I have been to Babbo, Il Mulino and Gotham. Babbo was excellent as was Il Mulino so I do not think you can go wrong at Il Mulino at all. Gotham was fantastic, but of course not Italian. I also do not know anyone who had a bad time at Il Mulino.

          1. I'm in the camp of those who think the food is terrific but that it's not worth it. However, if you decide to go, be warned that they will try to persuade you that you need much more food than you do which is how the cost can really get out of hand. In addition, while other posters have accurately, IMHO, described the strengths and weaknesses of the food, you should be prepared for tables that are much closer together than at Babbo or DelPosto and, as a result, a physically less pleasant atmosphere. That may not matter to you (or more importantly, your Mom), but if it does, this is probably not the place for you.

            1. I don't think much of the place, way overpriced for average food, you can do so much better. Do they still charge $60+ for specials without mentioning the price. In typical Il Mulino style they made us wait way past our reservation and then jammed us in next to the bar in to small a table. Overall, it was a lousy experience, though it was more then a few years ago. I have attached one of my favorite Il Mulino posts, an old one but a good one. Scroll down to the long post

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2101...

              1. il Mulino works very hard at being the old-school New York Italian restaurant that you just don't see anymore, and they succeed admirably.
                So if you want that, it's there for you, but you'll pay a handsome price for it.

                If you like the food at Babbo, which is the opposite Italian, then you might not like Il Mulino.
                I'm an old-school Italian-American, native NYer myself, have been to Il Mulino twice in the past year with gift cards, and can tell you that I don't *plan* to go back (which is not to say I *won't*) because to me, that food they serve should be half the price. The wine list is ridiculously high, too.

                Osso Buco is a $35 dish all over NYC, it's $50 in IM.
                My veal tenderloin with mushrooms in a thick brown sauce was $40, but I don't know why.
                We needed to spend $90 for a decent bottle of wine because that's how the list is structured.
                They gave us a dessert to share and somehow our bill still came out to $300 plus tip.
                Pastas were in the $30s and we both had one.

                The service is very old-world friendly and fun.
                Both times we enjoyed our time at the table and left stuffed, drunk and broke. If that sounds ok to you, and that's FINE, then you'll enjoy il Mulino.

                1 Reply
                1. re: il Trifulau

                  the food at il mulino is excellent. the risotto with white truffles if they have it is great. the lobster dish i had there was excellent. There is truth to Il Mulino being old fashioned in food and service. but its great food and great service. They probably still bring the big hunk of cheese out and grate it in front of you , or cook fettuccini at your table,,, my biggest complaint about il mulino is the tables are right on top of one another , very uncomfortable. Il mulino owners came from Joe's restaurant on MacDougal St.( now closed( they were waiters with Ennio and Michael, Pirondello, Bocconcino, I think C'entanni also ,, many restaurant owners came from Joes. I think you will enjoy the food but you'lll be cramped,,the food is better than Babbo.
                  Gotham seems a little run down to me,,, I did have great venison at Gotham , but I was disappointed the last time i was there. Not what it used to be,,,

                2. i had an incredible, incredible meal and was 100% satisfied. Hihgly reccomened, but i suggest you plan on sitting a while and taking your time. THey stuff youwith som many complimentary apps, you are pretty much full before your main comes out...So, i would wait to order a main course and sit and enjoy. Portions arent small.

                  1. If you are looking for fabulous Italian food of the Babbo variety, I think you will really like I Trulli. We like it better than Babbo, because the noise level at Babbo is SO high. I Trulli has a beautiful garden room, and a serene ambiance.

                    Service at both places is of the highest order.

                    It's been years since I've been to Il Mulino, but it was one of my most disappointing New York dining experiences.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: ChefJune

                      My experience as far as service was conncered was very memorable. They were so attentive, helpful, etc.

                      1. re: ChefJune

                        I'm soured on i Trulli ever since I experienced a really lousy, subpar Restaurant Week menu. I used to love eating and drinking at the wine bar, but I've crossed them off my list. Restaurants should either put their best food forward for RW or not participate.

                          1. re: Peter Cherches

                            Oddly, I had my best ever RW week experience at iTrulli. In fact they're the only restaurant I've found that actually does restaurant week right. But I guess that just goes to show the big problem with restuarant week is the inconsistency due to the large crowds.

                            I do love iTrulli non-restaurant week, and it does have a great back garden, but I wouldn't put it in the same league as Il Mulino.

                            1. re: Spends Rent on Food

                              Thanks to all for your responses and recommendations. I definitely will have to try Il Mulino soon, but I think I am going to stick with Gotham Bar and Grill for this occasion. Plus it is pretty impossible to get reservations at Il Mulino. I called the last few days and all I get is a busy signal all day.

                              1. re: steakrules85

                                Lunch is better than dinner at il mulino, less crowded, easier to get a reservation - sometimes you can just walk in...food is exactly the same. Get the veal parm. It is excellent.

                        1. Il Mulino was a lot of fun as a one time experience, but I would not go there for the food. It was quite mediocre. Both my husband and I were happy that we were not paying: the food was so not worth the high prices. Not even with all the fun we had just sitting there, observing the great "theatre" that Il Mulino offers.

                          And, if one of our friends wants to buy us dinner again and suggests this restaurant, I think we will try, as politely as possible, to suggest another restaurant.

                          1. I quite enjoyed the experience at Il Mulino, actually. Avoid the "specials" as they are very overpriced, but the red-sauce dishes are superb.

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: uhockey

                              What are the prices like for Il Mulino? My dad is obsessed that he wants to eat Osso Buco. Not looking for anything fancy and Il Mulino was recommended by another chowhounder.

                              -----
                              Il Mulino
                              86 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012

                              1. re: petuniafromhell

                                I'm from out of town but Il Mulino is one of my favorite NYC restaurants. I have been there 5/6 times for dinner and lunch once. They do serve you way more food that you can eat which runs the bill up. It's expensive on the same level as Daniel I would say and a lot depends on the wine you order. They serve some outstanding Italian wine but they get an outstanding price for it. I always thought Italian wine was a bargain but not at Il Mulino. Once I was with a guest who ordered lamb for lunch and they served her a whole rack which two people could have eaten. But the food is just outstanding, the service is nice, the room is small and it get's loud. It gets very crowded at night. I have been to Babbo many times and Del Posto several times. I love Il Mulino the best. A friend of mine ate at Il Mulino in Aspen last month and said it was outstanding and he's been to the NYC branch too. Good luck.

                                1. re: petuniafromhell

                                  It is ridiculously overpriced for what it is.

                                  1. re: gutsofsteel

                                    I concur - but it is certainly not "expensive on the same level as Daniel" - nor is it as good. It is good quality, enormous portions, and a fun experience - no more, no less. I liked it there, but it'd be below Babbo, Otto, Scarpetta, Convivio, Marea, Alto, and A Voce on my list of Italian places to go back to.

                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                    -----
                                    Babbo
                                    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                                    A Voce
                                    41 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010

                                    Scarpetta
                                    355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                                    Convivio
                                    45 Tudor City Place, New York, NY 10017

                                    Marea
                                    240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                                    1. re: gutsofsteel

                                      Guts do you ever have a kind word for anyone. Even a poor ole boy from Mississippi. I'm being nice but your approach to reasonable posts is extremely unkind.

                                      1. re: Littleman

                                        I replied to petuna's question with my opinion. You are welcome to disagree.

                                        1. re: gutsofsteel

                                          I apologize. I didn't realize you replied to Petunia. I don't disagree it's expensive but I just happen to love the place. Good luck to you.

                                    2. re: petuniafromhell

                                      Around 25 years ago the owner of jfood treated him with such disrespect and unprofessional and dispicable actions that jfood would rather miss a meal than give him a nickel. With all the great places in NYC to help profit, Il Mulino is three feet below fish crap on the bottom of the sea.

                                      Go elswhere where you can give money to nice people who deserve it.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        Jfood, I didn't realize you had an "owner" lol

                                        1. re: saeyedoc

                                          mrs jfood. :-)

                                          He still gets so pissed off about the owner of Il Moo-lean-o's actions that it still pisses him off.

                                      2. re: petuniafromhell

                                        I reported back on my experience at Il Mulino for my mother's birthday. It was absolutely spectacular and one of the best meals and most memorable experiences we have had. I have eaten in many top restaurants in NYC ( and many Italian restaurants) and Il Mulino is as good as they come. Food, service, old world ambience. It hits on all levels. In all honesty, I will say Il Mulino blows away Del Posto pound for pound, dollar for dollar in MY opinion.

                                        As for the osso bucco, it will run you about $45-$50, but rest assured every piece of food you put in your mouth will be wonderful. Also, as I am sure you know by now you will get tons of free goodies to start your meal. Therefore, you do not have to go crazy ordering appetizers as these will fill you up. But of course you are there for the experience and I advise you at least get one appetizer to share- whether it be the incredible eggplant stuffed with crab,spinach, shrimp or one of their pastas like porcini ravioli.

                                        -----
                                        Del Posto
                                        85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

                                        Il Mulino
                                        86 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012

                                    3. I am in the middle ground camp, so there you go. Il Mulino make good, old fashioned Italian-American food. 20 years ago, it would have been the best barnone. That said, I think the concept of regional italian fare has changed what is on offer nowadays and Il Mulino cannot really compete. For what they do, however, the quality of the food is good. If you want something a little more interesting, I agree with other posters that recommended I Trulli. The thing about I Trulli is that their appetizers are just okay, but their pastas are to die for.

                                      -----
                                      Il Mulino
                                      86 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012

                                      I Trulli
                                      122 East 27th Street, New York, NY 10016

                                      1. suggestions:

                                        Hearth
                                        Queen

                                        You do realize that Zagat's does not have an "opinion" it is merely a popularity survey. Anybody can be a Zagat's "reviewer." Lots of places of varying quality are popular.