Trattoria Il Mulino
I unexpectedly garnered a reservation on the first Friday evening of the eagerly anticipated opening of this 18th Street hotspot. Trattoria Il Mulino is a more casual offshoot of the highly regarded, Il Mulino, an old-world powerhouse that focuses on the cuisine of the Abruzzi region. We were seated in the back of a cavernous room where the tables were spaciously arranged around two focal points – the large, dimly lit, stainless steel bar, and a mural that could have been painted during the days of the New Deal – both set the stage for a colorful meal.
Immediately, when we sat down, a scrumptious basket of bread was presented to us along with an eggplant capanata and a plate of Italian charcuterie. My friend started with the cocktail special of the evening, which was reminiscent of a Bellini, conjuring up thoughts of Harry’s Bar in Venice. In fact, Trattoria Il Mulino’s cocktail menu specializes in typical Italian drinks, and sure enough at the end of the evening, we had the opportunity to sample their delicious, freshly made Fig Grappas and Limoncellos. Throughout our meal, a bevy of staff hovered around us, but it was our primary server, Desi, a champion jujitsu athlete and all around great guy who made several menu recommendations. We ordered the Bufala Fritta to start – a simple slice of fried heaven, in which the sauce complemented, rather than overtook, the taste and texture of the cheese. We also shared a perfect margherita pizza. Two of our main courses included a capellini dish with Pecorino Romano and pistachio, differentiating it from a more typical pesto, and a spaghettini with spicy crab and meyer lemon, a refreshing summer dish that hopefully will stay on the menu beyond the season.
Yes, I have saved the best for last – the desserts. We devoured several, but the overall consensus was that the Bianco e Nero was superb – Italian ice cream with walnuts, vanilla crunch and espresso zabaglione, which was supremely delicate in texture with just the right amount of diverse flavors. We also enjoyed a warm Brioche Budino – baked bread with grappa soaked raisins (there goes the grappa again) and topped with fresh figs, the perfect alternative to the lighter than air Bianco e Nero. Trattoria Il Mulino in Manhattan follows in the footsteps of two other successful ventures, one in Orlando and the other in Atlantic City, and I believe that they have a third hit on what is one of the city’s most vibrant side streets that I have documented, thus far.