Two Shades of White

New restaurants display Michael White's range

If we could sum up Michael White in a word, it would be indulgence: He is an expert at gratifying diners' desires.

But his latest projects–Osteria Morini in Soho and Midtown's Ai Fiori–show that his methods of achieving such effects are manifold; the two restaurants take starkly different approaches.

The elder Morini encourages indulgence in a brazen, unkempt sort of way. The downtown space, eternally packed with throngs drinking Lambrusco (the wine list devotes a full section to it), offers dishes that are received like an Italian bear hug: rosemary-flecked lardo smeared on toasted bread ($12), indie meats like rabbit and calves' brains and pliant pastas bearing accessories like local cream and speck ($20) or lamb neck and Pecorino ($16).

The just-opened Ai Fiori, however, treats dinner with kid gloves. Lambrusco is shelved for a global, name-dropping wine list, while White and chef Chris Jaeckle take Italy's neighboring countries (namely France) among their influences in a refined, technique-driven menu.

Occasions that need celebrating will be hoisted up by dishes like the Monte e Mare–($24) coins of scallop, celery root and black truffle dotted with melting bone marrow–or a thick-set veal chop alongside cabbage-wrapped sweetbreads and awash with a veal-pancetta pan sauce ($44).

Whether the mood calls for giddy and clamorous or polished and perfected, we're eating in White's light.

Osteria Morini, 218 Lafayette St.; 212-965-8777 or osteriamorini.com

Ai Fiori at The Setai Fifth Avenue, 400 Fifth Ave.; 212-613-8660 or aifiorinyc.com