As NYC slowly comes back to life, each experience that we took for granted in the past now takes on a special feeling—moments to cherish and appreciate. This was the first event I had attended in over a year, and it felt so good. What a way to be welcomed back into NYC’s diverse culinary mores with renowed Chef Pino Luongo who was on hand to meet and greet, and discuss the fabulous ingredients that we were to experience in all the dishes. To say each dish was a taste sensation is to only reveal the tip of the iceberg. Morso Restaurant NYC proved to be a little trip to Italy on every level.
It was a very balmy evening, it had hit the 90s earlier in the day, but once I stepped into Morso, the setting could not be finer (see photo at the top of this post). Surrounded by foliage, and tucked away next to the 59th Street Bridge, it was a true escape from the city hustle and bustle. We enjoyed a constant breeze while we chatted with new acquaintances and fellow foodies. If I lived in Sutton Place, this restaurant would be a regular stop—you can’t beat the Italians for their warm, attentive, and doting service, and of course, the selections of food—and wine.
The dinner began with a cocktail segment, in which we munched on an intense appetizer. The Crostino con Bottarga di Tonno Siciliano, which was accented by salted butter and preserved lemons from Sorrento, was an estremamente salty punch to the taste buds—nicely balanced by the bubbly from Lombardy, Italy. Alessandro Bandini selected the wines for each course, and did go into detail on the notes and origins, sharing his extensive knowledge of Italian wines. We felt duly educated. The 2015 Ca’Logera Tur Blanc Metodo Classico DOC Dosaggio Zero was the perfect sip to battle the intense saltiness of the bottarga (the roe sac of tuna, which is salted, pressed and dried—often grated on top of pasta).
Seen above are some of the star ingredients in the dishes we sampled. I say, they are the makings of a fantastic summer pantry. Right, inside Morso’s dining room, with cool graphic wall.
First Course: Insalata de Mare Teipida all’Ollio Toscano PDO and Limone di Sorrento PGI. One of my favorite things to eat in summer is an Italian cold seafood salad. The sauce on this one marries a superb olive oil (Laudemio) with the tartness of the preserved lemons (Sanniti). So fresh and light, with absolutely soft shrimp and calamari. The paired wine: organic 2019 Ribolla Gialla, Ronchi di Cialla DOC, Fiuli Venezia Giulia, Italy was full bodied enough, with notes of pear.
We were offered a taste of two wines for the next course. First was another white, 2019 Pigato della Riviera di Ponente CYCNUS , Poggio dei Gorleri DOC from Liguria Italy. Very crisp. Right, Pino Luongo welcomes us.
Second Course: Risotto Acquerello al Nero de Seppia. One of the best risottos I have ever tasted, this one was loaded with calamari and a squid ink sauce. Acqerello ages this risotto for 2 years, giving it an amazing texture. In its processing the starch in the rice is stabilized, so less is released during cooking allowing more sauce to be absorbed. Right, this is the only red wine that was offered at the dinner. 2018 Grignolino d’Asti LIMONTE, Braida di Giacomo Bologna DOC from Piedmont, Italy. It is a young wine, similar to a French beaujolais, and paired nicely with the squid ink sauce.
Third Course: Trancio di Ippoglosso della Nuova Scozia alla Livornese—a succelent halibut from Nova Scotia treated in a Livornese sauce: crushed tomatoes, capers, kalamata olives, and garlic. The wine pairing: 2019 Etna Bianco “Le Sabbie dell’Etna”, Firriato DOC, Sicily, Italy. I missed getting a photo of this bottle, probably because I was too busy eating, lol. It was a full bodied white from Mount Etna in Sicily.
Fourth Course: Dessert arrived in the form of an olive oil pound cake with an ample dollop of limoncello-infused marscapone cream and was served with a sweet wine with fun label. 2020 Moscato d’Asti VIGNE SENZA NOME Braida di Giacomo Bologna DOCG.
Pino Luongo has a long history of restauranteer-ing in New York. Starting with Il Cantinore, one of the East Village’s most charming spots, .he went on to open Sapore di Mare in East Hampton (which I had the joy of being treated by the man himself along with my friend who was reviewing for The East Hampton Star) with gorgeous garden. Le Madri (aka The Mothers) honored traditional Tuscan cuisine, validated by actual mothers. The Coco Pazzo concept assembles his “crazy chef” genius in all its forms. Tuscan Square used to grace Rockerfeller Center, Centolire was on Madison near 85th street, and now Morso. See our post on his latest project: an elevated pizzeria, Coco Pazzeria.
Morso, 420 East 59th Street (betw First Ave/Sutton Place)