I try never to listen to reviews. I don’t trust them because one man’s Dos Caminos is another man’s Taco Bell – and who is to say which one that man prefers.
Sometimes this gets me into trouble. Sometimes, it’s a draw. And sometimes, it lads me into a wonderful meal for which my expectations were really low.
Such was my delightful experience at the uptown Il Mulino.
Il Mulino is a veritable institution in the west village. It’s slightly easier to get a reservation there than its inspiration, Rao’s. It’s a club to which everyone belongs, as long as you come in with a reservation, which will likely be on the very early or somewhat late side.
Hey, I could be down with some prosecco at 6pm.
The vibe and atmosphere is old school elegance - break out your Birkin bags, and no ripped jeans, gents. The lighting is so low that even we, four young and healthy people, had to break out our iPhone flashlights. But you won’t read your menu for the first few minutes that you are there anyway.
First, you will order a bottle of wine from the rather small and overpriced list – how can you not? It’s such a celebratory feeling being ushered to your tiny, lamp lit table by a tuxedoed Italian man who spouts nothing but compliments, bella this and prego that….you need to drink to keep that buzz going!
Then, you will receive a chunk of parmesan from a large wheel. It’s nutty, salty, and a little sweet.
Then, there is the spicy hard salami.
Then there is the zucchini, oily and addictive.
Don’t forget the mussels bruschetta, where the mussels are a little blah but the crostini is downright fabulous. Tart, juicy, sweet, and a little earthy. Just a hint of garlic. Sorry for the lack of photos – toldja that the restaurant was insanely dark!
I wish I got a photo of the overflowing bread baskets. Yes, multiple. Spicy, crispy foccacia, fresh doughy tomato foccacia, wheat country bread, and garlic bread so cheesy, savory, and delicious that it must be baked with pure crack cocaine.
Yeah, it’s that tasty.
Only then do you get to look at the impossible-to-decipher-in-this-darkness menu.
Keep your oysters and other aphrodisiacs. This is the sexiest dish that I ave ever eaten. It’s swimming in a creamy, truffle inflected sauce. It’s firm but pillowy and light on the inside, with cheesy, woodsy, meaty porcini mushrooms. The pasta is tender and the serving is gigantic – easily enough for 2 light eaters. It’s rich and heavy in the most wonderful way. It’s almost heady with all of those mushrooms and cream. It’s intoxicating.
Chicken alla Romana
The most shocking of the night, because it tastes so home cooked. If you told me that your nonna was back there cooking it, I would believe you in a heartbeat. The most tender chicken in a lemony, almost velvety sauce with capers, mushrooms and artichoke hearts. The chicken reaches that magical point of fall apart tender but not yet mushy. It’s so bright and comforting – it’s really tasty in every way. It doesn’t come with a side dish, but get some more of the garlic bread to sop up that wonderful sauce. Trust me, you will want it all.
A lighter option to veal Parmigiano. Thin, wonderfully tender veal that is so soft and sweet that my fiance announced that it must have been smuggled into the country, because he had never tasted veal like this. It has a crunchy, thin breading that isn’t at all soggy and is well seasoned with salt and dried oregano. It’s covered with fresh tomatoes that are so sweet and juicy that it reminds me that the crap I have been eating all winter is finally giving way to spring and summer fruit. I would order this again, but would also like to try the much more sinful Parmigiano version.
Il Mulino gets an unfair rap as overly pricey and subpar. It was absolutely fair for the amount and quality of food that we got. The servers asked us if we wanted appetizers or dessert but did NOT push us. We were not rushed, pressured to upgrade our wine selection. or made to feel in any way that we were less than because we only ordered entrees. We were even gifted some fig grappa at the end to entice us to return. The service was efficient, warm, and genuine. It was an excellent meal, and though not a cheap one, a fairly priced one.
So even though I don’t follow reviews, you should follow mine. For that time when you don’t have to pinch pennies, Il Mulino is too delish to miss!