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« Barolo Trattoria and Wine Bar Opening in New Canaan on February 19 | Main | Christian Petroni & Fortina Restaurant @ James Beard House in NYC May 19 »
Sunday
Feb162014

Morello Italian Bistro in Greenwich: Beautiful Food in an Exquisite Setting

Morello Italian Bistro is architecturally one of the most beautiful restaurants in Connecticut and offers equally fine cuisine. The exquisite interior of the landmark building on Greenwich Avenue was designed by Rafael Guastavino, Jr, whose father invented the golden amber tile vaulting system that grace the pillars, herringbone arches and ceilings. Art adorns the walls, and the soft, hand blown white tear-drop shaped glass chandeliers, descending from the ceiling create a beautifully romantic atmosphere for dinner. As we worked our way through appetizers, pastas, entrees and desserts General Manager Jimmy Branigan, Jr. was the perfect host, stopping by the table on several occasions to explain the composition of many of the courses and offer suggestions from the reasonably priced wine list.

While we leisurely perused the menu, we enjoyed the “Prosciutto & Parmesan Fritters.” The large fritters delivered complementary textures and flavors. The crisp exterior was offset by the marvelously smooth interior, which presented a delicious combination of prosciutto and Fontina cheese. The dish was finished with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese which added the perfect level of saltiness to the fried exterior. An order or two for the table is an excellent way to start the meal. 

We next shared several of the appetizers including the “Hamachi Crudo,” the “Roasted Asparagus & Egg,” and the “Imported Pugliese Burrata.” My favorite was the crudo. Four thick, sashimi-style slices of Hamachi were accented with basil, pickled pear, lemon zest, chili, extra-virgin olive oil, and finished with sea salt. The Hamachi was more than capable of handling the slightly soured pear, the acidity of the lemon and the sea salt; the basil added a unique dimension that made for a delectable composition. The Asparagus & Egg was also delicious and would be perfect for a Sunday brunch. The asparagus were crisp and sweet, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and then topped with the fried egg. When the yolk was released, its creaminess was a delightful combination with the asparagus and cheese. The Burrata was less than satisfying. The cheese was too tangy for my taste and overwhelmed the warmed tomatoes and pistachios.

Pastas can be ordered as an entrée or as half-portions for an appetizer. My favorite of the three that we ordered was the “Butternut Squash Ravioli,” which was served with brown butter, and finished with diced squash and sage. Six raviolis comprised a half-portion. The pureed squash was sweet and smooth and the brown butter and sage were a perfect complement. The “Morello’s Garganelli Bolognese” was a very good rendition. The all-beef sauce was deep in flavor and the house-made garganelli’s shape allowed the sauce to cling to each piece. The addition of the herbed ricotta added a few background accents that created a wide flavor profile. The third pasta was the “Squid Ink Pasta with Lobster.” I was not fond of this combination. While the pasta itself was delicious, it was slightly overcooked and a little gummy. The sauce contained a lot of sweet lobster meat, but lacked the vibrant flavors that the other dishes delivered.

The three entrées presented very different combinations. The “Hudson Valley Magret Duck Breast” was accompanied by gooseberries, pistachio pieces and red watercress, all served atop two brushes of cherry sauce. The duck breast brought the texture and richness of a great beef or lamb filet, deep and rich with a firm texture. The gooseberries and the pistachios offset the gaminess of the meat with sweet and nutty notes, respectively. The duck was a delicious choice.

The “Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon” was served atop fennel braised in orange juice, olives and raisins. The fish was prepared to my requested medium and was deep and rich in flavor and the accompaniments brought bright notes to the preparation. Offsetting and brightening richness of the fish were the sweetness of the orange braised fennel and the raisins; while the olive brought a hint of saltiness. The skin was over-salted and I removed it to better enjoy the fish. Our third entrée was the “Roasted Scallops & Caramelized Cauliflower” with capers, caper berries, sultanas, and pancetta and served atop roasted cauliflower. The first taste included some of the capers, which were extremely salty and I needed to push them aside. Once the capers were eliminated the dish was significantly better. The scallops were perfectly seared on both sides, translucent on the interior and delightfully sweet. The sultanas delivered additional sweetness, the pancetta added the necessary saltiness, while the cauliflower added an earthy complement.

The three desserts were outstanding. My favorite was the “Salted Caramel Cheesecake.” The individually prepared cheesecake had a thin graham cracker crust and was presented nestled in a dollop of perfectly prepared caramel sauce. The filling was not too sweet and when combined with the caramel sauce was fantastic. The whipped cream added a little creaminess and the dish was complemented with a crunchy almond tuile. Another fabulous choice was the “Molten Chocolate Cake.” Morello’s version included a dark chocolate cake with a milk chocolate center sitting in a pool of caramel and served with a scoop of vanilla gelato. Each of the components presented a different amount of sweetness and when combined created a delicious and beautiful offering. Our last dessert was the “Yogurt Panna Cotta.” Whereas the other desserts were focused on sweet, the panna cotta offered a slightly tart alternative. The panna cotta was served with Nebbiolo poached pear slices, and topped with thyme accented semolina crumbs. The pears were incredibly flavorful from the wine poaching and complemented the tartness of the yogurt panna cotta. The crumb added a good textural difference.

Morello Italian Bistro is a beautiful restaurant with some outstanding dishes for both a romantic special event or a simple dinner with friends.

253 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich · (203) 661-3443

Really Liked:

  • Prosciutto & Parmesan Fritters
  • Hamachi Crudo
  • Roasted Asparagus & Egg
  • Butternut Squash Ravioli
  • Hudson Valley Magret Duck Breast
  • Salted Caramel Cheesecake
  • Molten Chocolate Cake 

Liked:

  • Morellos Garganelli Bolognese
  • Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon
  • Yogurt Panna Cotta

Not Fond of:

  • Imported Pugliese Burrata
  • Squid Ink Pasta with Lobster
  • Roasted Scallops & Caramelized Cauliflower

 

Morello Bistro on Urbanspoon

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