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Dinner at Torrisi Italian Specialties

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© kate krader
Tri-color cookies (homemade!) at Torrisi

I thought things couldn't get much better than lunch at Torrisi Italian Specialties, the terrific new deli in Manhattan’s Little Italy. And then they opened for dinner. The genius of Torrisi, for those who haven't been, is that chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone meticulously source only made-in-America Italian ingredients. They won't use balsamic vinegar or Parmigiano-Reggiano (instead, they make a Late Harvest Zinfandel vinegar and buy a nutty hard cow’s milk cheese from Wisconsin). They started experimenting with Worcestershire sauce until they found out it was from England (“Get that out of here,” said Carbone).  Now they’ve staked out a couple of caper bushes in California and have anchovies and olives curing in their cellar.

But let’s talk about that dinner, which is a $45, five-course deal. The Torrisi chefs are doing brilliant things, like topping perfectly greasy and garlicky bread with tomato powder, then serving it with warm mozzarella. They also make Ravioli Caruso, filled with chicken liver and named for the famed tenor who backed the epic NYC restaurant Mamma Leone’s (Torrisi and Carbone cite Mamma Leone as an inspiration alongside Thomas Keller and Joël Robuchon in a video they made about themselves). For dessert, Torrisi offers Italian ices inspired by the Lemon Ice King of Corona in Queens—made here with grapefruit and served in little paper pill cups—and a cookie plate that includes a stellar homemade version of those tri-color ones that, for once, taste as good and as fun as they look.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

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