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The Early Word on Michael White's Osteria Morini

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Krieger, 9/29/10

Osteria Morini, Michael White's long awaited return to downtown Manhattan, made its debut to the public last week. The 100-seat trattoria is rustic in its look with walls lined with framed photos and copper pots and rows of wooden tables. The food is classic trattoria with pastas, stews, and grilled meats, and it's already attracting a crowd: White mentioned that they had to turn 400 people away on the reservation line and 250 people at the door this past Friday. With all the people clamoring to get in, there are plenty of opinions. To the early word:

The Mostly Great News: The Skinny Critic set her hopes high and, after visiting, sounds like those hopes have been met. There's the Mara in which the "seafood was all perfect tender and very nicely marinated. It was the perfect starter." The Ventresca, an olive oil poached tuna belly, was not as big a hit. "The tuna had a consistency and flavor that reminded me of canned tuna and not in a good way. The fish was slightly overcooked and lost its delicacy." The highest praise is saved for the Sangiovese braised beef short rib. "The short-ribs were fork tender and covered with a perfectly rich sauce. I LOVED this dish. These were the perfect short-ribs." She finishes up with a vow to return. "What White has created is the perfect neighborhood Osteria. The place you want to go on a cold winter's night and be comforted with rich homemade foods. I can't wait to return..." [The Skinny Critic]

The "I'll Go if Lupa's Booked" News: Chowhounder ml77 visited on opening night and notes that "though there were some opening night jitters (to be expected), I really enjoyed my meal and will definitely go back." So how did they come to that opinion? Well, the service sure helped. "I called during the day and made a 6 PM reservation. Upon realizing that I would be late, I called the restaurant and they could not have been more gracious. Arriving at 630, my bag and coat were checked by the FOH staff and I was promptly seated at a table in front of the bar." The music too. "Music was pretty much straight ahead rock n roll, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Springsteen. Good stuff. Fits the surroundings and was played at a reasonable volume." There there's the food, of course. "My next course was the mezzalune pasta. This was ravioli stuffed with squash, topped with brown butter and amaretti. This was very good, and has the potential to be a special dish." At the end, "I see this restaurant as Michael White's answer to Lupa. If I was shut out of Batali's trattoria, I wouldn't hesitate to head to Osteria Morini instead." [CH]

The "Not Fucking Around" News: Mouthfuls poster Sneakeater starts his post stating that he hasn't gotten Michael White in the past but it's clear that after a meal here, they've gotten it. "The reason I think this is White's best restaurant is that here White isn't fucking around with food. These are all pretty straight, basic, traditional dishes, not flights of "cuisine" fancy as at White's other places (especially Marea). So you get the benefit of good ingredients and really solid kitchen technique, without the mediocre thinking that goes into the formulation of dishes at the other places. Maybe he should have started this way... This place is very enjoyable. I'm sure I'll be back frequently (if one is able to get in). It's not a big deal. Or, rather, it's strange that it is one. But it rewards patronage. In fact, this is one of those places that I can't imagine anyone disliking." [Mouthfuls]

More Great News: From the tipline, we get another pleasant review of the food. "I ordered an app (tuna- I forget the name) and the gnocchi with pomodoro sauce - both were delicious with simple, bright flavors but the portions were small (not a problem for me cause I am not a big eater)." The takeaway from this tip is the level of service. "I walked in and got a seat in front of the Chef's station ( so I got a great view of the freshly sliced prosciutto - must try that next time.). Chef White was presiding ( how could you miss him?), assisting the chefs in front, checking the kitchen in back, talking to various important people seated in the back as well as making several trips to the front of house, talking to guests and generally surveying the scene... My server was very eager, knowledgeable (almost too but not really- maybe cause the boss was in the house?" [Eater Tipline]

The Bad News: Yelper Michelle P. has a less than favorable impression, giving them the one-star. "I went to eat on Day Two and wanted to love Osteria Morini but it fell short on so many levels." Ouch. The bad news seems to be spread out evenly among all aspects of the operation. "The pasta was excellent but the fish and beef shank were overcooked and dry:-( My Italian friend who owns a vineyard was not impressed when we were also given the wrong glasware for our sparkling red wine. (Stemless for a cold, bubbly wine is a no-no I learned.) In addition, the chocolate cake was more like a muffin, cold and dry to the bone. Service was so-so, tables were awkward, and font of menu was much too small....everyone was complaining they could not read." She leaves one final hopeful though backhanded note. "I am hoping that Michael White will be cooking IN the kitchen in the future since I saw him only greeting the customers inside the dining room while I was there." [Yelp]

The "Wine, Relaxed, Meat!" News: Nicholas F. chooses to make this his inaugural Yelp review - an overly enthusiastic one that ends on an oddly awesome note. "It was fantastic, taking into account all the opening week things one needs to take into account. Family style italian focused on the food and the wine, relaxed, meat!" [Yelp]

The Twitterific News: nyfoodlover loves it and thinks it's gonna be a hit. "first visit, solid food, great wine list, smart service, mobbed with chefs and bloggers, looks like another Altamarea hit" DimeBounce had the steak at dinner and, clearly, he's a fan. "Just had one of the best steaks of my life at Osteria Morini in Soho. No joke, amazing!" girluninterrupt tweets that "Osteria Morini did not disappoint. Duck liver pate was ridonck." Not only did jenniferepowell have a great meal but she had a bona fide celebrity sighting while she was there. "Died + went to heaven last night, dinner at Osteria Morini, sat next to Christina Hendricks. She is seriously stunning in person." [Twitter]
—Gary Wong

Osteria Morini

218 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012 (212) 965-8777 Visit Website

Osteria Morini

218 Lafayette St., New York, NY