I recently had the chance to dine at the brand new Upper East Side restaurant, Morso. It is the latest creation from NY restaurateur Pino Luongo and Chef Tim Ryan (Picholine, Bouley).
I went to Morso on a rainy evening. it’s located on 59th street, right by the bridge. There is a large outdoor area (which will be great come summer). The restaurant felt classic New York without being outdated. There’s a bit of pop to the restaurant as well. Walls are covered in poster art that hits a Warhol meets Fellini feeling. Very Italian, think Milan instead of Tuscany.
The name of the restaurant is “Morso” which translates to “bite”. Genious idea. Perhaps the nicest thing about the menu is that most of the dishes are offered in two sizes: morso (bite) and tutto (all). This allows you to order quite a number of dishes to taste and share. I wish more restaurants would go in this direction. As a woman working in food; I am constantly worried about my weight. Offering smaller portions is the perfect solution for someone like me who likes to sample and enjoy different flavors.
We started off with the gorgonzola fritters ($14/$19). These came with roasted pears, endives, frisee, spiced walnuts and an apple cider vinaigrette. One would think that with all these incredibly strong flavors the result would be powerful, maybe even pungent. Chef Ryan’s dish was elegant. The pears were a lovely juxtaposition to the gorgonzola. The spiced walnuts were subtle. The bitterness of the endives was pared down and the frisee was nicely savory.
Our next dish was the Uova del Giorno (P.A.). This restaurant seemed to already know the things I love. Eggs may be my favorite ingredient and I think they should be served at every meal. These were poached and set atop a bed of puntarelle salad dressed with a colatura (anchovy) dressing and shaved bottarga (roe). I was in heaven. There was even a hint of citrus that livened up the dish. The bottarga was gorgeous. I think I need to go back for more.
The penne came next ($15/$20). It was made of a farro flour and was paired with a roasted winter squash, braised kale and white beans. I was not in love with this dish to start, but within a few bites I came to enjoy the savory/sweet combo that came in from the squash.
An important note. I was three dishes in and not feeling full. This was a very (very) good thing, especially since the next dish was the capesante ($18/$26). Capesante is the Italian word for scallops. These were delectable, perfectly cooked with a pleasant crunch on the outside, great interior texture and a slight sweetness on the meat. The chorizo and the black rice on this dish went well with the overall feel of the dish.
Finally, we got to the agnello ($24/$30). This dish surprised me. It had a somewhat middle eastern component that I was not expecting, but very happily welcomed. The lamb chops were grilled so they were pink in the middle, just the way I like them. The eggplant and lamb roll that would have been fine by itself, but made a nice addition to the plate. The white beans were delicious and this dish was simply delightful.
Almost forgot to mention the wine list. Mostly Italian (as I expected) but truly diverse in showing off the talents of Italian wine makers. My favorites of the evening were the Pecorino from Marramiero and the Malvasia Nera from Notarpanaro.
I’ve raved about the food. But I will tell you my favorite thing about Morso. The service was superb. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and there were no slip ups in service. While I dined, I noticed that Pino stopped at each table. His was no mere courtesy visit. You could tell that within seconds that people let down their guard, welcomed his presence and began chatting as if he were an old friend. In fact, when I chatted with Pino that evening, I was charmed. He took the time to tell me about his life in Italy, his other restaurants. I even got to practice my (atrocious) Italian.
Morso is located at 420 East 59th Street New York N.Y. 10022
Dinner: Mon-Sat 5pm – 11pm, Sun 5pm – 10pm
Lunch: Sat 12 – 3 pm
Brunch: Sun 11:30 – 3:30 pm
R train to Lexington Avenue, 59th Street exit.