Recently friends Jeff & Eva suggested meeting up for dinner to celebrate Jeff’s birthday, albeit a few weeks after the fact. They recommended Osteria Morini, though at the last minute we weren’t able to get a reservation until 10:15pm. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was; at 10:30 (and later) on a Saturday night the place was packed, loud, and Eva even spotted Michael White in the kitchen. More importantly, the food was quite good for a place that seemed like such a scene.
We started with a couple of appetizers. The sweet corn sformato (similar to a souffle) had an almost ephemeral texture; other sformatos I’ve eaten have been much more dense. The grilled bread it was served with was marvelous.
I ordered one of the side dishes, an cauliflower and escarole gratin, as another appetizer. As I mentioned before I’ve been on a bit of a cauliflower kick lately, and this is one of the best dishes I’ve had. The vegetables were very well seasoned and the gooey mess of cheese was not as heavy as gratins can be.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wine that Jeff & Eva picked — a 2007 Rosso Piceno Boccadigabbia. This was a beautiful, deep-flavored red wine, which the menu described as having dark fruit and tobacco flavors, which was certainly true. On the back end there was a mineral, almost salty taste. It was love at first sip, this is one of the best wines I’ve had in a long, long time.
Jeff & Eva recommended the pastas very highly, and I chose the special gnocchi. The light and airy, slightly chewy gnocchi were tossed in a corn sauce with wild mushrooms. I didn’t taste much corn but the mushrooms were delicious. The only real misstep were the finely diced red bell peppers which added little beyond texture to the dish. Well, that and the faux-farmhouse plates that bordered on twee. The portions on all of the pastas were just right; not small, but not big either. Just enough food to leave not feeling stuffed.
As the night wore on the restaurant got louder, and we opted for dessert. At the top of the page you see my gelato alla meringa — pistachio gelato and hyssop gelato with meringue and poached peaches. The peaches were beautifully cooked and really made this dish something special. Thanks again to Jeff & Eva for introducing me to a fun late night place.
Osteria Morini — 218 Lafayette St.