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Il Mulino - am I the only one who felt cheated?

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I'll try to keep this short - but basically my recent dinner at Il Mulino was one of the few times I walked out of a restaurant and literally felt like I was taken advantage of.

Let me start by saying the food was good - very good, even. One dish (the Capelli Il Mulino, with the truffle sauce) was excellent. But some of the prices that are charged are absurd. I went with some friends, one of whom who has been here many times (and apparently has more money than sense) and let him do the ordering, with some of our input.

I think the best I can do is just to give a run down of what we had:

Complimentary appetizers - pretty good. The cheese was excellent. Bread was good, but anything dredged in that much oil will be good. Bruschetta was good also, but really? People are raving about it being served with one tiny mussel? But overall, a good start.

Buratta - this was great. Expensive at $30, but definitely good, and a large enough portion for 4 to share. Would I order again? Probably at $20, which would be a much more reasonable price.

Lamb "special" (I put special in quotes because the specials have largely been the same for 20 years - which is why the waiters know them so well) - sauce/crust was good, lamb itself rather tasteless. $80. Yes, you get a lot, but these were not remotely huge lamb chops (make a "C" with your thumb and pointer finger, and that's about the size of the meat on each). At $10 a piece (8 chops), this is robbery.

Seafood special pasta - squid ink linguine, served with a decent amount of seafood. Tiny scallops. Not a large portion at all (by Il Mulino standards). A huge rip-off at $40. The version of this dish I had at Al Di La in Park Slope was much better, and half the price.

Chicken - (Spezzatino di Pollo alla Romana) - This was good. Good in the "I just had a great catered buffet lunch" way - it's like the chicken that comes in a huge aluminum pan. But don't get me wrong, it was very good and tender, with a rich sauce. Also a HUGE portion, which justifies the $30 price tag. You could do well by splitting this with someone as a main course.

Capelli Il Mulino - delicious. Not cheap for pasta at $28, but man this was good.

Prosecco - We were charged glasses of a nondescript prosecco for $20 a pop. Highway robbery.

Wine - I don't remember, but I had a decent enough red by the glass for $12. Later asked for a recommendation from the waiter and got something that they charged me $22. I guess buyer beware.

Dessert - 5 strawberries (yes, they were huge) and some cream for $20. Really?

So basically, we had some good food, and some decent food. Some decently priced, some outrageously priced.

Would I ever return? Yes, now that I know how to eat here. I think you'll notice a common theme in the following suggestions:

1) NEVER EVER EVER order anything without knowing the cost. Again, I guess this is our fault, but in general if prices aren't listed or mentioned, I think it's dishonest to have them so far out of line with the normal items. Be warned that anything on the "Specials" list will be double what you'd expect to pay for it.

2) Watch what you drink. My first glass of wine was very drinkable, and not completely outrageous at $12. The $20/glass prosecco probably would cost you $8/bottle in a liquor store. Again, don't take any suggestions without knowing the price.

3) Desserts - I don't think prices were listed. Make sure what you're getting isn't a $20 plate of fruit.

4) Stay away from that lamb! Unless you think this is a good way to spend $80, in which case, you probably stopped reading already when you realized how cost-centric this review was.

5) Know that most portions are huge, and you definitely definitely don't need an appetizer and main per person. One of each for two people would probably be too much. If I was going with one other person, I'd split a pasta (from the menu!) as an appetizer, split a chicken or veal dish as a main, get a glass of wine each and be out of there for just over $100. That would be money well spent.

So to sum up - I didn't expect a cheap meal, but these are fine dining prices. And this is *NOT* fine dining, by any stretch. This is good, comfort Italian food, and you can have a good and reasonably-priced meal there if you do it right.

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

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    1. Thanks for writing that..I enjoyed reading about the place, even if I've never had any desire to go based on previous accounts. Interesting about the lamb chops, though. Am I correct that these were rack chops? I ask because when I buy rack of lamb at a very good butcher here in NYC (FLorence, on JOnes Street), I expect to pay about $50 for the entire rack, which consists of about 8 chops. I have no doubt that Il Mulino is way overpriced, but on this dish, I think maybe it was in line if you actually got 8 rack chops in one order. (I believe you get 2 at Ai Fiori,for example, for about $40 or so).

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

      1 Reply
      1. re: erica

        Yeah, that's a good point. It was a rack (cut into individual chops). To be honest, I am not much of a "meat on the bone" person (I have a few steaks per year, and maybe lamb or pork chops once every couple years) and had no idea they were that pricey. Even at FreshDirect, a rack is $45 or so.

        By those standards, $80 does seem reasonable, I guess. However, I'm honestly not sure what the normal size of a lamb chop should be though - these seemed small: the meat on each chop was roughly a circle that s 2-3 inches in diameter, and they were maybe a half an inch thick.

        Overall though it didn't seem like much food for $80. I know if I split that with someone and had 4 of them, it wouldn't be enough food. Also the only thing it came with was a pile of mushy potatoes.

      2. Take it from someone who has been there enough to know: you are not wrong to feel cheated. Il Mulino is notorious for upselling, getting customers to order way too much food and for not disclosing the price of specials. However, a very good meal can be had there. Sorry it's late for your meal, but here's a link you may enjoy reading all the same:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/223729

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

        1 Reply
        1. re: Steve R

          Can you go to Il Mulino and just order that 28 dollar truffle and maybe a glass of wine for dinner, no apps, no mains?

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

        2. I love Il Mulino ... when I'm spending other people's money.

          1. Il Mulino back in the 80s was always rated the best Italian in the city by Zagat. The food is still good although staff has changed. Il Giglio is a cheaper version of Il Mulino. The original owner's wife opened that restaurant and took some staff with her. Il Mulino is one of the most uncomfortable restaurants to eat, with tables on top of one another

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

            Il Giglio
            81 Warren St, New York, NY 10007