Il Mulino Review
So we went to Il Mulino last night to celebrate my sister's 21st birthday. Due to the predictably horrendous traffic we arrived around 10 minutes late for our reservation. After hearing the usually exaggerated wait times even for those who had reservations I admit I was a bit wary of what awaited us. Upon setting foot into the place you see a brilliant display of desserts, fruits, cheeses, etc. The atmosphere many will say is like your Italian grandmother's living room ala 1960. And they are probably right, but that is one of the things that is great about the place which I will get too later. But no need to worry, as soon as we arrived we were whisked away to our corner table where we could see all the action take place and allow "THE SHOW" to get underway. Coming in, I of course knew of the notorious round of complimentary appetizers that were going to be granted to us. However, my family had no idea of the wonderful surprises that would hit the table. Even before we could take our coats off, there was a heaping portion of marinated zucchini on the table. Merely seconds later we were delightfully bombarded by several waiters whisking by with hunks of parmigiano cheese, a bread basket that included regular bread and crunchy garlicky strips soaked in copious amounts of chili infused olive oil, and soppressata. Then came bruschetta with some unbelievably fresh tomatoes and mussels. The final scrumptious freebie was the garlic bread. This is how my family and I like to eat. Don't make us sit around for 20 minutes, wait for the waiter to give us the menu and the whole schtick about the place, etc. before providing us with the bread. Or in this case the parade of amuse bouches lol. I have to say my favorites were the zucchini and the garlic bread. I could have eaten both entirely if hard pressed. Knowing we had tons more ahead of us I warned everyone (especially my father who has a propensity to fill up on bread before the meal) to not fill up on these goodies no matter how difficult it would be. My mother leaned over to me and said "Do they do this for everyone or did you tell them it was your sister's birthday and they are taking special care of us?" To that I just gave her an angelic smile and shrugged naively. The intial act of the show was a success and everyone had a huge smile on their face. We even joked and said ok that was great I'm full let's go now!
Right off the bat we were off to a stupendous start. After allowing us to settle in and enjoy our first round of complimentary apps, our charming tuxedo-clad Captain straight from the mainland approached with a huge grin from ear to ear. "Buona Sera!" Woulda youa likea fora me to recitea the specials to you" (in his authentic Italian accent)? To which we all said Yes of course!" He then proceeded to rattle off around 20-30 specials in meticulous flawless detail making each sound better than the next. Around halfway through he paused and we thought he was finished .... but he was merely just catching his breath and continued to add more specials. To this we all let out a collective laugh and he enjoyed in the fun also saying WAIT THERES MORE! My mother, always one to interact with the wait staff said "Wow how do you remember all of them"? To which he said "Ehhh you know". To which my father responded "Yeah just don't ask him to repeat them again!". And he let out a boisterous laugh and said ok and now you can look at the REGULAR menu which was chock full of tons of other choices. Needles to say if you can't find something to eat at Il Mulino you have seriously issues.
After some deliberation we decided to get the following: For our appetizers (wait didn't we already have those hehe?) we chose the famous porcini mushroom ravioli in champagne truffle sauce and a special eggplant rollatini stuffed with crabmeat shrimp and mushrooms topped with a vodka sauce and a side of some sauteed spinaci. Both were delicious. The porcini mushroom ravioli came with 11 ravioli. The captain divided and plated them among us and spooned the sauce. They were the perfect size for a nice app and were chock full of chunks of mushrooms. The sauce is what really made it though- incredibly rich and after two of these you are satisfied. The eggplant was one of the best things of the night. Usually when things are stuffed with seafood you can barely taste any texture at all. Not this. There were copious amounts of crabmeat and I had a whole piece of shrimp wrapped in mine. The vodka sauce, mushrooms, and mozzarella topped it off and the sauteed spinach was the perfect compliment. It goes unsaidf we devoured every last bite.
Four our mains the order was Veal chop with sage and roasted potatoes for dad, Rack of lamb encrusted with dijon and served in Barolo wine sauce with roasted potatoes for , Chicken parmigiana for mom, and my sister and her boyfriend shared a Pappardelle sepcial with sausage and mushrooms in a tomato sauce and Chicken spezzatino alla Romana (pieces of chicken bone and boneless with mushrooms, artichokhes, wine sauce also). We also got sides of broccoli rabe and fried zucchini for the table. Yes I know way too muchhh but you know what they say When in Rome! When we celebrate.. we celebrate baby!!!
After some time went by and we were able to digest a little, another new member of the staff came to the table to present to glorious Rack of Lamb in its whole state on a tremendous copper tray. I absolutely love when a restaurant does things like this and allows the diner to see a whole rack of lamb, a porterhouse steak, whole lobster, whole branzino, tableside preparations, etc. It adds to the allure and experience IMHO. It was then whisked away to the kitchen to be sliced. No joke 30 seconds passed and 8 carved lamb chops were bestowed upon me. Yes, I said EIGHT. And I am not talking about little nonsense baby lamb chops. These were thick, succulent, ginormous lamb chops in a dijon crust sitting in a deep brown Barolo wine sauce. Yes that was a chock full but hey I had to provide the details to take you there. Next, the rest of the dishes came one by one to hit the table with a thud. Yes the portions at Il Mulino are incredibly generous and you feel as if your money if actually being well spent. At this point all of our eyes were lighting up at the feast in front of us. Where to start first? I dug right into my lamb chops of course. WOW! Rigth away I was hit with such an intense mustard flavor from that crust, cooked perfectly rare, and ohhhh that sauce. Outstanding! My father's veal chop the size of Shaquille Oneal's Fist also cooked perfectly sitting on a bed of roasted potatoes cut into steak fries was another winner. But the thing that really topped off that dish was the crispy bits of garlic and fried sage on top. Wow, who knew you could fry sage leaves and they would turn into such sweet goodness. My mother's chicken parm was pounded so perfectly paper thin and covered the entire 12 inch diameter of her plate, still having the little bone attached which was great presentation. Even though simple and a dish you can get anywhere, it still take quite a bunch of skill to nail it. And they did. The best I have ever had. Sauce was so resfreshingly sweet but not overly so, cheese was salty and creamy, and the inside was not dried out but the chicken was perfectly deep fried and incredibly juicy and tender on the inside. For me, I usually would never think to order something like this out since I consider myself more adventurous. But I have to say I would not be disappointed getting this in the least. My sister's pasta I sampled sans sausage since I am not a fan. But pappardelle is one of my favorite pastas and it was cooked perfectly al dente. Her bfs chicken was also well done. Then there were the sides. The main complain with broccoli rabe is its bitter. Well not when it is prepared right. This was the best I have ever had. It was piping hot and steaming and of course sauteed with tons of sweet chunky garlic cloves that were visible. The fried zucchini was crack addicting and not oily at all. I could have seriously eaten this as a meal and been perfectly satisifed. After we all took our share of it I am glad it was placed at the opposite end of the table so I wasn't tempted into eating more. So you see there was nothing we ordered that the "foodie" (yes I do consider myself in this camp and am extremely adventurous and do appreciate a chef's creativity) would say oh wow that sounds amazing or interesting or novel. Whatever. I judge great food on three things. 1. Of course the taste, 2. Is it cooked correctly (meat to correct temp, potatoes crispy, pasta al dente, vegetables are actually flavored and seasoned with care not just a bunch of frozen out of the box crap on a plate), 3. Is it hot? There is nothing worse than getting your food and it is lukewarm or even worse cold because it was sitting under a heating lamp for 20 minutes. Not here. They hit on all cylinders, everything cooked correctly, piping hot, directly from the pan and oven to the table immediately fresh.
At this point we are all busting and full from all this deliciousness. But of course no dinner or birthday celebration is complete without dessert. When I called to make my reservation I mentioned it was a special occasion and my sisters 21st. They brought out a mini cake with a candle in it and sang Happy Birthday to her! What a great touch. Even though she was embarassed we all loved the effort by the staff. The waiter then came back to give us the rundown of all the desserts. It was very hard to choose from tartufo, flourless chocolate cake, tiramisu, cheesecake, zabaglione, etc. on and on. I asked if maybe we could have a sampler and he said "Sure, I got you taken care of". He came back with a dessert spread fit for a Venetian hour at the dessert table of a wedding. Four chunks of tartufo, slices of tartufo, cheesecake, flourless chocolate cake, zabaglione with berries, cinnamon infused whipped cream, and piroulline cookies from Italy. Yeah we were full. We probably didn't need that. Did we eat it? WHAT DO YOU THINK? Dessert is so funny. You always say ah we don't need that much, we are full, we won't eat it. But then it comes and before you know it it is gone. Everything again was spot on. I particulary loved the tiamisu and the zabaglione.
At this point the meal and our dining marathon was coming to an end. All that was left was my family, myself, a couple of red roses and a candle in the center of the table, and of course our leftovers!
The service was spectacular, flawless, and some of the most attentive I have ever received. I would not be shocked if we were not visited by everyone member of the staff during our meal. I have gone on about how great the food was. Now I will give a little nibble about the atmosphere and ambience that I touched on in my initial sentences. Yes, this place is old school. No, it probably hasn't been revamped since it has opened. Does it look like my grandmother's Italian living room circa 1960 with wooden chairs and wall paper on the walls. Perhaps. And you know what? It was perfect and I wouldn't want it any other way. Why does everyone restaurant need to be updated and modern to look like we are in a timewarp to 2078? For me this was such a great atmosphere and being young it almost brought me back to a time when I did not exist For me that was super cool. Many will argue that Il Mulino is nothing special. Past its prime, resting on its laurels and Zagat Rating, tourist trap, hum drum Italian whatever. For them that is their opionion. Obviously, after reading this I hope you know I could not disagree more. Is it true you will not be served foie gras, sweetbreads, frog legs, sea urchin, and dishes with foam in them here (and like I stated earlier I do have a great appreciation for such delicacies as well but can have a great dining experience without them too)? You bet your ass. The food is simple like great Italian should be, plentiful, yet it is superbly executed. The atmosphere and ambience may be outdated and old school, yet it is charming and absolutely delightful and fun and I wouldn't want it a different way anyway. The waiters are not phony, trained waiters who speak perfect English and are overly pretentious. They are genuine, have charming Italian accents and warming personalities, are flawlessly attentive and engaging. Best of all they put on quite a show for you as well!!!!! Is it pricy? Of course, but well worth the price of admission for us. So you know what? My family and I obviously do not need all of the fu fu presentations, miniscule portions, 11 course tasting menus, overly thought out dishes to have a great meal. Again for me, I can appreciate those type of places also. Some may, but for us we were satisfied to the nines. My sister said it was the best meal and experience she has ever had. To me that was worth the amount of the check's weight in gold. So all in all, Il Mulino is all of the things that I described in this paragraph and most imporantly.. it;s ITALIAN! One of the things I use to determine if a restaurant was good is asking if it is worth it to come back. With so many spectacular and interesting restaurants that I want to try in this city, if it is then I know it is good. And to answer that I would come back in a heartbeat.Thank you Il Mulino for providing us with a memorable meal. We will be back and not hardly soon enough.
86 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012
398 West Broadway, New York, NY 10012
glad you had a good time. i never tried il mulino in nyc but i did try it at atlantic city after winning 550 dollars one night =]. lol i enjoyed the veal chop parm the most and i liked the osso bucco too. And you're right their portions are monstrous. i actually didnt like the tiramisu at il mulino in AC but i did lovee a gelato dessert they had.
this is my favorite italian restaurant. last time spent $350 for 3 people, no alcohol. must get there when they open, will be seated immediately and attentive service at that hour too. decor isn't dated or worn. usually closed during my birthday, july 12th, for two weeks. italian native nyer and foodie. enjoy.
86 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012
Claudio, the captain, really does a fine job, and I'm glad to hear he took care of your table. Didn't seem you tried the house grappa--it's very good stuff. The trick to having a good experience here is to come early--waiting around the bar for that 8 pm reservation (that turns into 9 pm) is what makes a lot of people understandably irritated...
Excellent review, as usual, steakrules! All the wonderful details made me feel as though I were right there with you and the family. Actually, I've never considered going to Il Mulino before, but you made it sound so appealing that it's now on my "go to" list.
"Happy 21st Birthday!" to your sister. :)