On New Year's Eve, exactly five years and one day since opening its doors on Mulberry Street, Torrisi Italian Specialties as we know it closed for good. The Torrisi boys will replace it later this year with a new, 15-seat fine dining restaurant, which shouldn't really be too much of a surprise to anyone familiar with the history of the diminutive restaurant. So, in honor of the end, here's that history now, in timeline form. Read on to revisit the life of the little restaurant that sparked an empire, from its beginnings as a sandwich shop and its rapid rise to hotness, through numerous price hikes, a year-long ode to New York, and more.
December 30, 2009: Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, then just a couple of relatively unknown Cafe Boulud alums open a little counter-service sandwich shop called Torrisi Italian Specialties. It's morning coffee and lunch only for the first month, but promises to add dinner down the road.
March 9, 2010: A month later than expected, the little sandwich shop finally opens for dinner, serving a set menu for $45 a person. There are 18 seats, no reservations, and dishes like hearts of palm with peanuts and anchovies, and chicken liver ravioli.
April 19, 2010: The Robs file a rave five star review, writing: "At $45, dinner's a tremendous bargain, and a serious delight. In the realm of red-sauce cooking, it's nothing short of revolutionary." As general manager Nicole Katz later tells Eater, this is when the lines start forming.
The Torrisi project as it stands surely must run its course. – Sam Sifton, 2010
April 23, 2010: Days later, with timing too perfect to be entirely accidental, dinner goes from $45 per person to $50 per person.
June 2, 2010: Ryan Sutton, as Bloomberg's restaurant critic, files a glowing review. The opening sentence: "Torrisi Italian Specialties might be Manhattan's best Italian-American restaurant."
June 4, 2010: All signs point to a Times review looming. Eater readers predict a two-spot. Given the no reservations policy, the restaurant is already impossible to get into, so there's some worry that this will only make things worse.
June 8, 2010: Eater readers prove correct. Sam Sifton awards two stars to Torrisi Italian Specialties, comparing the cooking to the "early days" of David Chang. He also makes this prescient prediction: "The Torrisi project as it stands surely must run its course, the way any performance does, the way any combination of kinetic energy and art must eventually fall off its axis...Presumably Mr. Carbone and Mr. Torrisi will cook this way until it gets boring, and then will do something else."
July 21, 2010: Torrisi's general manager, Nicole Katz, talks to Eater about all the ups and downs of handling the front of house in a tiny restaurant with a notorious, unrelenting wait. When asked why it only has Torrisi in the name, and not Torrisi and Carbone, she predicts: "I can't imagine that there won't be something with Carbone on it at some point in the future."
September 9, 2010: The restaurant adds dinner service on Monday nights, which means it's now open for dinner seven nights a week. It also adds a teeny four-stool bar.
September 15, 2010: Torrisi and Carbone announce that they're planning to run a booth at the Feast of San Gennaro, where they'll sell Chinese-Italian food like wok-fried mozzarella sticks. They proceed to sell 500 pounds of mozzarella over the course of four days. They've run a booth every year since.
November 8, 2010: By executive decision, Torrisi Italian Specialties wins the Eater Award for Restaurant of the Year.
February 17, 2011: Torrisi Italian Specialties is named a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant. The other two New York semi-finalists are Recette and ABC Kitchen.
March 14, 2011: To the delight of sandwich lovers everywhere, Torrisi and Carbone announce the imminent arrival of Parm, a sandwich shop right next door to Torrisi Italian Specialties. It promises a bigger, better place to get those turkey subs and eggplant parms that it's been serving to the crowds during lunch hours.
April 13, 2011: Community Board 2 flat out denies the duo's liquor license application for Parm. Their issues: The space was previously unlicensed, the takeout window will cause congestion, and the board members feel that the duo "have a problem managing their business," whatever that means. Also one board member is really pissed off about the benches in front of Torrisi.
May 11, 2011: Better luck the second time around. Parm gets approval, after Torrisi and Carbone do away with plans for a takeout window, get rid of those benches, and promise to take some reservations at Torrisi to alleviate sidewalk crowds.
September 29, 2011: The Torrisi boys are rumored to be plotting a "Carbone Italian Specialties" of sorts on Thompson Street.
October 28, 2011: The restaurant prepares to take a short hiatus while sandwich operations move over to Parm, and announces some major menu changes. First off, the set menu is going up to $60 from $50, and will be served at both lunch and dinner. Then the bombshell: The restaurant will also begin serving a $125 15-20 course tasting menu.
November 4, 2011: Confirming rumors, the Torrisi boys announce they're taking over the old Rocco restaurant space. This is what will become Carbone.
November 7, 2011: Parm opens.
November 16, 2011: Carbone and Torrisi announce that their new tasting menu will be based on the history of New York. It includes oysters cooked cashew chicken-style, Manischewitz-glazed lamb chops, and Jay-Z inspired "oysters Rockafella."
December 5, 2011: HBO films an episode of Treme at Torrisi.
December 9, 2011: The Torrisi boys debut this nutso video about that Manischewitz-glazed lamb.
December 24, 2011: Torrisi finally starts taking reservations for its regular, $60 prix fixe.
January 4, 2012: Torrisi Italian Specialties makes its debut on the Eater 38.
March 21, 2012: Rich Torrisi tells Ryan Sutton that the tasting menu will soon go up from $125 to $150 a head. The prix fixe has already gone up from $60 to $65. Nonetheless, Torrisi swears, "The restaurant makes about no money, this I promise you."
May 9, 2012: Still writing for Bloomberg, Ryan Sutton is even more impressed with the new tasting menu than he was with the original. "What was cramped now feels clubby," he writes, "and the service is as refined as at any top restaurant." He gives it three and a half stars.
December 1, 2012: The price of the prix fixe goes up once again, to $75. As consolation, there is now a real dessert course instead of a cookie plate. Torrisi and Carbone also abandon the New York theme for the tasting menu, in favor of a more seasonal menu.
March 8, 2013: Carbone finally opens.
September 9, 2013: The Torrisi boys ditch the tasting menu entirely, and raise the cost of what used to be the seven-course prix fixe menu to $100 across the board. Now it's not a prix fixe, but an eight to 10 course tasting menu, "conceived by the chefs based on a list of special ingredients." The chefs promise to create a range of dishes based on the same ingredients, so that not all diners get the same dishes.
November 21, 2014: Team Torrisi announces that Torrisi Italian Specialties will close for good, to be replaced by a new, slightly more exclusive fine dining restaurant with a new name. Unlike Torrisi, it will serve a la carte dishes as well as (probably) a tasting menu.
December 31, 2015: Torrisi Italian Specialties closes for good.
By now, of course, Rich Torrisi, Mario Carbone, and partner Jeff Zalaznick are an empire to be reckoned with. They also opened ZZ's Clam Bar, the inordinately pricey cocktail lounge, and one of 2014's greatest hits, Dirty French. They're just a couple weeks away from opening their next big blockbuster, Santina, and Parm meanwhile has reached certifiable mini chain status, with a new Upper West Side outpost and more on the way in Williamsburg, Battery Park City, and near the Barclay's center. So what's next for the Torrisi space? That is anyone's guess.