Nice Surprise at Morandi New York
On a warm summer night, the ideal meal would be served outside, on a terrace, with suitable atmosphere and of course, delicious, flavorful food that is right for the evening. My wife an dI hadn't had much luck in just showing up at certain restaurants, having been let down by poor food, mediocre service and limited atmosphere in the Meat Packing District the weekend before.
As we walked down 7th avenue in the Chelsea area, we spied what looked like an ideal match to our Friday evening hunger and atmosphere pangs. We arrived at around 6:30PM on what was to be a busy evening for most well situated restaurants in this cross-over between Village and Prepie area.
Without a reservation, we figured we might have to wait and Roberto, the Maitre D', along with Linnea (I believe that was her name) were very polite and accommodating, communicating with us about the potential wait for an outdoor table. It wasn't busy inside as yet, but the outdoor tables were all but filled. The interior was absolutely evocative of a rustic Tuscan in, with wide planked wood floors, brick archways and all the trappings of a local Italian trattoria, but with understated sophistication. No white table cloths to up the prices, although $18 for a spaghetti Bolognese is not inexpensive.
The warm air was slowly moving inside the restaurant that had all of it's street side doors open. This invited an ideal atmosphere for the entire restaurant, but we chose to wait for a table on the street. There wasn't too much traffic, horns or sirens, so we figured we'd try to enjoy an ideal night, with the sun low and the breeze just ever so slight.
We moved to the bar area, which was a little cramped with after-work patrons, but my wife and I simply cuddled and watched how Roberto brilliantly and deftly picked up numerous phone calls and teamed up well with Linnea and another fellow who appeared to be the manager. All were absolutely professional and able to keep us in mind along with seating those with reservations and those without, accommodating people with those seats that were equally excellent just at the front of the open air parts of the restaurant. I usually get irritated when waiting, being forgotten and watching others take seats that would look clearly available, but Roberto assured us a couple of times and had told us approximately 25 minutes and it was exactly that. I watched him motion to Linnea to consider us should a non-reserved table come free and that is very much lacking in today's restaurant world. Bravo Roberto!
Although there was no music, which to me is part of the atmosphere for any restaurant to set the mood and calm the din of loud patrons, staff, dishes clanging and the requisite noise of the street, the movement of people, waiters and some light traffic seemed to allow for soft speech that was understood. No yelling to understand here, which is a pet peeve of mine when going out anywhere.
Roberto gingerly gestured for us to come with him and I complemented him on his sophistication, style and grace, to which we conversed briefly in Italian and after assuring the table was cleaned, set and positioned properly, wished us a pleasant meal and motioned for the just right bread basket, oil and salt dish to be brought over, menus waiting.
Over the 25 minute wait, we noticed a number of dishes being brought to various tables, the delicious looking meatballs, ideally crisped chicken dish, various pastas and appetizers like the grilled octopus and mozzarella balls with baby tomatoes in balsamic sauce. It all looked so yummy as my wife put it and yet, wasn't piled high like favorite bygone haunts like Tony's Family fare on the Upper East Side.
We had browsed the menu before we sat down, and cued in on a couple of favorites being the hand rolled lemon pasta and the squid ink and crab pasta along with a selection from a well appointed Italian list of wines and desert wines.We started the meal with a simple Bib lettuce salad and were eagerly awaiting our meals. We enjoyed the outdoor al fresco experience and commented on how quickly the restaurant filled up, not knowing of it's pedigree before writing this review. Most of those pedigrees falling flat along with being disappointing.
Our only issue was in dealing with a very loud mouthed 20 something female who regaled her two friends about her early morning masturbation and any number of other stories that I can recall in detail because of her loud indifferent voice. That table began to receive a variety of preppie wannabes and ultimately became something of an evening entertainment for us because we didn't believe people that were so obnoxious and right out of a "Friends" episode really existed.
We enjoyed our Lettuce and light seasoning, although at $10 a "salad", I would say a little steep in the pricing, but when our pastas arrived, we were giddy. They were absolutely perfect even though the size of the portions were quite small by overweight American standards. The hand rolled pasta was sublime, perfectly seasoned, but you should like lemons if you order it. The Black linguini, always difficult to prepare was al dente and the crab was also perfect. We were ecstatic with our luck and although considering dessert opted to walk to our favorite coffee shop for a night-cap. The options were ideal with a fresh berry and cream option along with the traditional Italian desserts that looked just right as they floated by on trays for other guests.
Over-all we would highly recommend the restaurant for it's food quality, selection of appetizers (the sauteed spinach looked delicious and we overheard other guests raving about their meals), atmosphere and most certainly the staff who were professional, polite, attentive and dealing dealing well with a couple of unruly tables like our sexed up tart with the loud mouth free entertainment, were also perfect. While not inexpensive and offering huge portions, the balance was quite ideal and rare in the over-priced, ego-maniacal restaurant industry in Manhattan. Go, especially on a warm summer night. It's a rare escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and with the quality and service, is in it's own league. Bravo again Roberto!