The first time I went to Torrisi Italian Specialties, I was hooked. I have been back several times, but only for lunch. I finally went for dinner this past weekend. Keep in mind no reservations are accepted, but it's well worth the wait.
The whole concept of the restaurant is brilliant. Small and intimate, and what they decide to serve that day is what you'll eat. Everyone in the restaurant is eating the same thing, so there is no doubt that each dish is prepared to perfection because there are not a variety of options. The lace curtains on the windows are another lovely touch — they are reminiscent of the old-school Italian restaurants in New York City from past decades, but the food is a very modern take on old style Italian cooking. Clever.
The starters are a mixture of antipasti for the table to share. There is warm, freshly made mozzarella drizzled with a little olive oil over the top, plus garlic bread on the side. I admit that I did not touch the garlic bread, but asked for some bread with nothing on it instead — the truth is the mozzarella was perfect by itself.
We started with a warm seafood salad, which I really liked. A mixture of seafood tossed in a warm vinaigrette and served over lettuce. Wonderful.
Lamb Tongue Gyro is the name of this dish. Thinly sliced tongue with a touch of spicy yogurt and roasted vegetables. A few people didn't want to try this, but to me this particular dish is what is so interesting about the new breed of chefs. April Bloomfield starting doing this, and for that matter so did Mario Batali. Taking pieces of meat that are generally not used, which make them inexpensive, and creating delicious dishes.
These crispy onions were fantastic. Small spring onions covered in panko, then deep-fried and paired with a smoky sour cream for dipping. Wow.
For the main course, there were three options. Everyone orders their own dish, but we decided to split everything. This was the poached black sea bass with pickled green tomatoes, olives, and roasted sliced potatoes.
Deviled chicken was the second option. A spicy paprika-crusted chicken breast, pounded and pan-fried over polenta then topped with greens. Very nice.
The special that evening was a short rib for two. Roasted, taken off the bone, and then sliced and served over the bone. Really good and different, as short ribs are most often braised.
I liked the idea of a cookie plate for dessert. Small cannolis filled with cream, tiny cream puffs (which had a hint of bourbon in the filling), beautiful tri-colored cookies with a pistachio flavor, and tiny tarts with a savory sunchoke filling. My favorite was the sugar cookie topped with celery salt. So clever. The mixture of the savory saltiness and sweetness just worked.
A great night. I can hardly wait to go back.