Torrisi Italian Specialities Pre-fix Menu Review
This could be the most disappointing experience we have had over the past year. I'm glad we didn't do the $160 chef's tasting menu. I can't speak to whether the quality has decreased since they first started doing the pre-fix menu because we never were able to go. The reasons for why the meal was disappointing were as follows: uninspired dishes, poor price to value both in terms of quality of ingredients and size of portions, stiff/mediocre service, weak atmosphere, and a very overpriced wine list. The antipasti - mozzarella with bread (fine, nothing special), grilled arancini (interesting little dish), surf and turf carpaccio (not bad, just strange and would never desire to have tuna with little bits of pork belly, sea urchin, and bone marrow on top again), foie with potato and apple (eh, had much better preparations at other restaurants). The pastas were the highlight of the meal. The sheep's milk gnocchi with chestnuts and the macaroni paesanos were delicious. My only complaint is I wish the macaroni has more seafood in it, but it had great flavor. The entrees were huge letdowns - the blackbass with pickled vegetables had no flavor and the skin was mushy. I can prepare blackbass at home that tastes a lot better than what was served. Also, what is with all the pickled vegetables? How about something without vinegar please. The veal also lacked any flavor and it was one measly medallion. It was so simple, nothing interesting about it. The dessert was a tasty lemon cake. How about offering 2 desserts instead of 1? That way two people can share instead of having to get the same thing. For $75/person we left the restaurant feeling we were duped and also still a little hungry. In addition, the wine list is obnoxious. They had 1 glass of sparkling white wine for $15 and 1 glass of red for $16. Every other glass was $18 or more. They charged $18 for a glass of vermentino. I wasn't familiar with the label but I wonder if the retail price for the bottle was about $12 like many vermentinos. The price per bottle was also on the high side - with bottles starting in the high 50's to low 60's depending on the region. The service was extremely stiff and the seating uncomfortable. This was a place I had high hopes for given my love for the original Torrisi/Parm sandwich shop. I wonder if the main chef was out that night but even if that is the excuse, the dishes were boring and the meal overpriced by a wide margin. At this price point this restaurant fails on every level for me.
I went in mid-December and was disappointed as well. The mozzarella was good and everyone at my table raved about it, but one of the courses was basically a piece of broccoli rabe (or something similar) tempura style. Another course was just a tiny piece of fluke "carpaccio" - almost like a piece of sashimi. That is 2 courses that felt like nothing. The duck was good but, again, was really tiny. And the italian cookies at the end seemed lazy and uninspiring, and an excuse to serve a cheap course.
The price has risen from $65 to $75 since then. I don't like that they only serve California wines that are way overpriced. I tend to check the menu online from time to time to see if they can regain my interest, but it isn't happening. If you go during one of their weeks where the menu stinks, you're basically screwed.
I dined here a few weeks ago - I thought it was pretty good, but I agree that at $75 it's a bit overpriced for what you get. This restaurant also has no bread service. And there are an awful lot of supplements on the menu. The people next to me ordered a rib steak for two (it was maybe a $30 supplement?) and it did look great. I enjoyed the mozzarella, the surf & turf, and the ricotta gnocci. My entree was swordfish with a winter vegetable "caponata". It was decent enough but didn't blow me away, and I thought the portion was rather small for an entree. The lemon cake was very good, but also kind of a dainty portion. But even the dessert has a $6 supplement upgrade.
Aldea and Hearth are in a similar price range (both have tasting menus at 80-ish), and their entrees are better, more interesting and substantial.
However, I really like the appetizers and dessert at Torrisi. They are well-crafted, managing to be light portions but intense in taste. The broccoli rabe rice ball was very, very impressive (I've seen related attempts at Momofuku Ko and Per Se that didn't manage to get the balance right), both in the texture of the rice as well as the "umami" of the fermented vegetable. The dungeness crab stracciatella was a love-child of little italy and chinatown. The lemon cake was really velvety and smooth; the accompanying coffee ice cream was a nice contrast but a little stronger than necessary. Similarly, I could go on about the mozzarella and the foie. Everything was consistently tasty and interesting, whereas at Aldea/Hearth I can recall some weak dishes.
The service was pretty offensive. The person who gave me my dishes was pretty superficial and unprofessional. Maybe it's a SoHo thing. But I don't take the trouble to make a reservation to be treated like that, especially at any Michelin-starred restaurant.