Dining

Meat or Fish?

Torrisi redefines Italian-American

Some nights, you just don't have the energy to navigate a menu. Other nights, it's your dining companion who's as wishy-washy as Madonna's accent.

On such occasions, head to Torrisi Italian Specialties, where the only decision you're asked to make is "meat or fish?"

This new Nolita spot plays deli by day (try the standout chicken Parm sandwich for lunch), but its handle is something of a misnomer: Though Italian by design, chef-owners Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone make all of their dishes from artisanal American ingredients like La Quercia meats from Iowa, Wisconsin's SarVecchio Parmesan cheese and rolls from nearby Parisi Bakery.

At night, Torrisi becomes a quaint, 16-seat restaurant and the ideal place to bring an indecisive date. The multicourse menu ($45 a person) changes frequently, but typically begins with an orb of warm, just-made mozzarella in a pool of California olive oil waiting to be soaked up by the accompanying garlic toast.

Next, a caravan of small bowls arrives bearing the deli's antipasti creations--like an Idaho Carona bean salad made with pork jowls, radishes and lettuce--followed by a pasta course (our last visit brought chicken-liver-stuffed ravioli flavored with red wine).

Depending on whether you choose the land or sea option, your entrée might be a heritage pork chop with vinegar peppers or local cod poached in olive oil with baby potatoes.

But what really makes this meal memorable are the clever flourishes typically found only on pricier tasting menus; Torrisi serves bite-size crostini dressed to mimic everything bagels, a post-entrée palate cleanser of grapefruit shaved ice, and for the dessert course, a plate of house-made Italian confections.

If you want wine with dinner, you have one more decision to make: white, red or sparkling? Torrisi serves only one option of each, at $7 a glass.

Torrisi Italian Specialties, 250 Mulberry St. (at Prince St.); 212-965-0955 or piginahat.com

Torrisi Italian Specialties 250 Mulberry Street New York NY 10012 212-965-0955

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