Last night, shielded away from the cold outside on Lafayette St, in the cozy, rustic interior of a barn disassembled and transported from Emilia-Romagna, Italy, I had a truly inspirational and special pasta. One that was unlike any that I had ever experienced. The Spallina, a tiny double ravioli, with equal portions of squacquerone cheese and rabbit confit, each in its own pillow, conjoined and giving each bite a burst of contrasting and complimentary flavor. First the delicious meatiness of the rabbit and then the soft mellow taste of the cheese. Each Spallina was a bite savored.
But the double ravioli isn’t the only reason you should duck into Osteria Morini. The restaurant is the perfect spot for a cocktail, a Battilardo course, or a feast. Lucky for me, last night was a night of feasting.
We began with cocktails. The Fig N’ Pig and the Eastside Nog.are two well crafted, and very winter appropriate drinks. The Fig N’ Pig is a fig infused bourbon and honey riff on an old fashioned with a hint of cayenne pepper and a garnish of dried prosciutto. The Eastside Nog is a creamy blend of bourbon, honey, cream, cinnamon and egg yolk. I imagined the nog in a pitcher waiting to be married with the bourbon, but to my surprise, each coupe-full is made to order.
Midway through cocktails, we ordered a course of Battilardo. Sliced on a beautiful Berkel meat slicer operated by hand right in front of us, a selection of Bresaola and 24 month aged Prosciutto di Parma were piled high on a charcuterie board. Joining them was a StraCapra goat’s milk cheese, a duck liver Fegatini, and a few scoops of Parmigiano Gelato drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar. A board of 5 items is more than enough to feed four, but the two of us were delighted at the challenge of enduring such a delicious spread. We left the selection up to the chef and it was good enough for my husband and I to begin planning our next visit just to have a drink and a board of sliced meats, spreads, and cheeses.
Emilia-Romagna is often referred to as Italy’s breadbasket. In fact, many of the flavors we associate with Italian cooking originated in the area. Prosciutto, mortadella, parmigiano, and balsamic vinegar originated there. You can taste that in the Polpettine of prosciutto and mortadella. The texture of these meatballs is exactly what I want when I order this dish anywhere. Firm, held together, and still succulent, the meatballs bond with the flavor of the tomato sauce in which they are simmered. If you are looking for something a bit lighter, and a little less literal to the Italian menu, try out the Sformato. This is a cloud-light butternut custard with a taste of fall that doesn’t scream of the spice. It is a delightful reminder of what squash can inspire and the dreamy taste is accented by candied pepitas on top. On our server’s recommendation, we enjoyed a delightful Lambrusco with a texture like raw silk with our antipasti.
Before our next course arrived, I overheard a conversation at the table next to me, “I imagine they just have these little angels in the back making the pasta.” said a woman who was quietly raving about her last visit to this restaurant. In reality, they have a room set up for just that, though the angels are men with angelic talent. Osteria Morini creates their pasta fresh. In addition to the Spallina that sent me into gourmand bliss, they offer 11 other pastas, each with their own preparation, including the Torcia. Torcia are torch-shaped pasta and these are prepared with squid ink, rendering them soot black. They are served in a seppia and shrimp ragu that calls to mind the feeling you get upon reaching the seashore after a long journey.
We decided that we couldn’t leave without tasting an entree, so we opted for an incredible Porchetta. This Tuscan-spit roasted Hampshire pork is delightfully fatty and served with cipollini onion agrodolce. At this point of the evening, we didn’t think we could ever eat more food, and for the first time since I began writing these articles, I had to ask for a doggy bag. At the manager’s recommendation, i reheated the Porchetta in a pan with eggs and just finished it off, pleasantly reminded of my wonderful evening at Osteria Morini.
The food at Osteria Morini is spectacular, and deserves much praise, but equal praise should be lauded on the restaurant’s staff. Knowledgeable, eager, and genuinely excited about what they are doing, they embody what a great night-out should be. After they have given you your fill of Italian farm-home cooking, take their advice, get the Affogato, and an amaro. You’ll be glad you did.
Osteria Morini is open daily for lunch and dinner and serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday. They are located at 218 Lafayette Street, and menus and other information is available online at www.osteriamorini.com.