Rich Torrisi Goes Glam
The New York chef’s glitzy new Torrisi Bar & Restaurant is like the cocktail party you don’t want to leave.
Nobody can accuse the Major Food Group of understatement.
Case in point: the new Torrisi Bar & Restaurant, the restaurant group’s glitziest opening since the pandemic forced us to all take an unwanted vacation from each other. Following its playbook for celebrity-fueled hotspots like Carbone and Dirty French, this 4,000-square-foot behemoth gives New Yorkers still hungry for connection the thrill of the crowd.
An ode to Manhattan exclusionism—now aimed more at dinner reservations than the velvet-roped clubs of the early aughts—the new restaurant also happens to be Chef Rich Torrisi’s love letter to the city that gave him his start.
“In the years leading up to this moment, I had a feeling that Torrisi Bar & Restaurant belonged near Mulberry St., surrounded by the stories and traditions that inspire me and this concept,” Torrisi said. (The chef’s original Torrisi Italian Specialties, a more-modest Nolita neighborhood joint that closed in 2015, was a few steps away from this new incarnation.)
The location for Torrisi 2.0, on the rear ground-floor of the Puck Building, was just right. “Now that we’re ready to welcome guests, I’m absolutely convinced that Torrisi could only exist in this space, on this corner,” Torrisi explained. “I look forward to cooking here for many years to come. This is home.”
Torrisi, 44, who grew up in the Hudson Valley, has been cooking professionally since he was 13. His career led him to criss-cross the Atlantic, train in Europe, and eventually become a star under the tutelage of chefs like Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit and Andrew Carmellini at Café Boulud.
It’s not easy to get a reservation for the dining room, but the bar area is first-come, first-serve. Along with its tables and high-tops, you can order food and drinks at the two standing communal bars, all overlooked by the company’s first open kitchen. Here you’ll find hipsters in hoodies chatting with Euros draped in custom couture. It feels like a cocktail party you don’t want to leave.
The drinks program, run by Nathan McCarley-O’Neill of London’s famed Claridge’s (don’t call him ‘master mixologist’—‘bartender’ is just fine) promises a slight spin on favorites, like the rhubarb and peach-scented Spritz Torrisi, an entire cocktail Negroni category, and an Old Fashioned elevated with almond-oil grappa. The diverse wine list, which spans Italy, France and the U.S., is offered by quartino, glass, and, of course, bottle.
The menu has its surprises, and it’s playful but not poncy. Expect a composite of Italian and New York influences, with highlights like the Short Rib Scottadino rubbed with pastrami seasoning and cucumbers New Yorkese, drenched in a bracing, yet balanced, vinaigrette. And though the cavatelli with Jamaican beef ragù may seem more of a show stopper, our party was wowed by the chopped liver with Manischewitz on silverplate, smooth with a touch of sweetness, served with toast triangles, chopped herbs, and minced onions. Even the simple tortellini pomodoro, which in less-experienced hands can look and taste like junior-high cafeteria food, was delicious here, filled with a classic mix of cheeses and smothered in bright tomatoes. (Torrissi had considered taking it off the menu—perhaps because it was too basic? There was a foodie outcry. The tortellini stayed.)
The space, designed by NYC-based Garrett Singer Architecture + Design, somehow feels intimate, even given the cavernous space and soaring ceilings. A modern take on classic Little Italy, it’s anchored by a marble mosaic floor and a startling mural by neo-expressionist icon Julian Schnabel depicting a grotesque, distinctly unpuckish Puck. (Schnabel’s son Vito is an investor in many of MFG’s projects and helped the managing partners curate the art in the original Carbone.) Other standout design aspects include crushed-velvet banquettes the color of seafoam green and an emerald-quartzite marble bar with brass pendants.
This spring, Torrisi will add outdoor-seating options. For private parties, there’s a dining room that seats 18. One thing the Torrisi Bar & Restaurant is proving, in all its scenester, Instagram-worthy splendor: Post-pandemic, #NYTough is again becoming #NYGrand.