Monday, April 7, 2014

Osteria Morini: Chef Michael White in Soho

One of New York’s hottest chefs, Chef Michael White's Osteria Morini introduces New Yorkers to the heart-felt cuisine of Emilia-Romagna, birthplace of the sensational flavours and ingredients associated with Italian cuisine worldwide: prosciutto, parmigiano and aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena. Named after White’s mentor Gianluigi Morini, the owner and founder of Ristorante San Domenico in Imola, Osteria Morini draws strongly from Chef White’s personal experience in Emilia-Romagna, where he worked for seven years. This lovely restaurant, located on a small square between Little Italy and Soho, was our first dining destination after arriving in NYC, giving us a taste of an old-world osteria with the soulful food of Chef White's acclaimed Italian cuisine.

Original timbers from an Italian farmhouse line the ceiling and vintage photos frame the walls

The small lively interior of Osteria Morini 

An absolutely charming restaurant full of character, portions of an Italian 1700s-era farmhouse were dismantled and shipped to New York by White, to create Osteria Morini's unique decor, such as the restaurant's terracotta floor and aged wood timbers that line the ceiling. A large cast iron door from the farmhouse greets diners as they enter the restaurant, and the even the doors leading to the restrooms are originals from the farmhouse bedrooms.

It's a Mamma!

Osteria Morini's menu is no less authentic with guests encouraged to begin their meal with a variety of affettati, formaggi, crostini, antipasti and other small starters to share, to be followed by Chef White’s signature dishes including traditional ragus and stuffed pastas from Emilia-Romagna, including Garganelli with cream, peas, truffle butter and prosciutto and Carne ai Ferri, Torcia Squid Ink Pasta with shrimp and sepia ragù or Spaghetti alla Vongole with clams, leeks, white wine and chiles. Entrées include Brodetto Adriatic-style seafood soup of calamari, scallops, fish, shrimp, clams and mussels, Petroniana crispy veal cutlet with prosciutto cotto, buttered spinach, parmigiano and truffled cream or a selection of simply grilled meats and spit roasts. The fabulous wine list includes over 130 wines from Liguria, Umbria, Tuscany, Southern Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Le Marche, as well as cocktails such as an Aperol Spritz and along list of sparkling wines like prosecco and my absolute favourite, lambrusco. Morini's open kitchen offers glimpses of Chef White or executive chef Matt Adler as they conjure up their culinary magic, allowing guests to enjoy the theatre of their meal unfolding before their eyes. As Fellini said, "Life is a combination of magic and pasta.”

Aperol Spritz

A flight of three types of Lambrusco

The bartender showed us his favourite Lambrusco

 A sparkling verdicchio

The menu at Osteria Morini

A fan of Umbrian wines, we ordered a 2011 Montefalco Rosso by Milziade Antano from Umbria

And to keep us hydrated on some other liquid than wine, we ordered some Aqua Panna also

Baskets of warm foccacia, freshly baked and straight from the ovens at Osteria Morini

A selection of prosciutto, felino (the "King" of salami) and fegatino (duck liver louse with passito wine), plus pecorino and a soft cow's milk Squacquerone served with puffed Tigelle Modenese and a basket of warm grilled bread

The basket of warm grilled bread had been brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt

The Fegatino duck liver mousse is made each day at Osteria Morini

Stracci wide ribboned pasta with braised wile mushrooms and rosemary oil

Tagliatelle with ragù antica and parmigiano

Brodetto, and Adriatic-style seafood soup of calamari, shrimp, scallops, clams, fish and mussels

Good to the last shell

The busy kitchen at Osteria Morini

Chef Michael White

Chef White's cookbook - Classico e Moderno: Essential Italian Cooking

Prosciutto di Parma with Garganelli and Peas
Serves 6
Recipe courtesy Chef Michael White, Osteria Morini NYC

1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1 pound fresh or dry garganelli or penne
2 tbsp unsalted butter or truffle butter, divided
5 slices Prosciutto di Parma, cut into ribbons
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Fill a medium saucepan two-thirds full with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add peas and cook just until they turn bright green, about 30 seconds; immediately pour into a colander and rinse under cold water to preserve their colour. Fill a large saucepan two-thirds full with water and salt liberally. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 2 minutes for fresh or 7 minutes for dried. Meanwhile, over medium-high heat, in a large heavy skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter, tilting the pan to coat evenly. Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring 1 minute just to warm and infuse the butter with its flavour. Stir in the cream; lower the heat and simmer gently 5 minutes or until it reduces and thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the peas and the remaining butter; remove from heat. Drain the pasta in a colander; shake off excess water. Add the hot pasta to the skillet. Toss to coat the pasta with the cream. Stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to wilt the arugula. Divide the pasta among individual plates; finish with a few grinds of black pepper. Serve right away.

“Everything you see I owe to pasta.” 
 - Sophia Loren -

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