A tiny, 23-seat restaurant in Nolita, Torrisi began as an Italian deli and sandwich shop that converted to a multi-course dining room at night. We had an amazing seven course meal that served as great inspiration for us.
Julian: I can’t find my socks! They blew off sometime during dinner at Torrisi. Wow.
Jesse: Hah! Julian said wow more than once during our meal here. I actually don’t think I’ve heard anyone say wow quite so many times during a meal. But the wow’s were most definitely deserved. Torissi’s does Italian better than any I’ve had before and manages to make each dish uniquely their own. They didn’t reinvent Italian; they didn’t need to–it’s already delicious–but somehow, they made it better. Like, woah. And that’s where the woah’s come from. You think you know what you’re going to eat, you think you know what it tastes like, but then, you’re surprised– it’s freakin better.
Julian: From the moment I walked in, I knew I liked the place. Unlike a lot of restaurants that have been driving me nuts recently, they’re not doing things here just because they’re hip. Their chefs are clean cut and remarkably lacking tattoos, they have funky bread plates like the ones you’d see at your grandma’s, and they have the waiters wear matching Adidas sneakers with their dress shirt and tie. But it all comes together to create a comfortable, unified, and really enjoyable dining experience.
Jesse: Nothing felt forced at Torissi’s–they stayed on the right side of the very fine line between lots of character and the very crafted Disney jungle cruise feel. You know when you walk into a restaurant that’s beach themed, and it looks like surf boards, coconuts, and pictures of sun sets have been vomited all over the walls? That sucks! But Torissi’s walls lined with Progresso, dried pasta, and cheap mozzarella–it worked for some reason. I mean, if you can charge people an 80 dollar/ person minimum to eat at your restaurant, while decorating with boxes of old bread crumbs, you have to be doing something right.
Julian: That something was the food. They’re not coming up with completely novel flavor combinations or using ingredients that you’ve never heard of. Instead, they’re taking staples like bagels and lox or sausage and peppers and doing them in new ways, with perfect technique, and with the best ingredients. They’re making mozzarella to order. They’re using sushi-grade salmon for their bagel and lox dish. They’re making the perfect Italian icee, without any ice crystals. It was all delicious.
Jesse: With food of that caliber, and that high of a price point, one would assume the service would be top notch as well. Unfortunately, I’d say the service here was the only thing that didn’t meet my expectations. By no means was it bad service. Our waitress was helpful and answered all our questions knowledgeably, but after having experienced the level of service at Blue Hill the night before (or The Catbird Seat, or McCrady’s), this paled in comparison. They attempted a similar system to The Catbird seat by having their cooks deliver the dishes, but the cooks rarely told us any more information than the few descriptors on the menu. Not to mention, they didn’t seem very practiced at it — as in, they were very much cooks that seemed like they belonged in the kitchen, not interacting with customers. When the desserts were delivered, all the pastry chef said was, “here are your desserts for the night”. What?!! For me, if the service had been there, this would have been about as perfect a restaurant experience as I’ve ever experienced. So close Torissi, so close.