While this blogpost title seems kitschy or trite, I so-titled it because Keith McNally, Morandi’s manager, has got to be one of the dandiest fellows out there. Though his bio on the website sheds little light on his actual life story, it certainly lists out quite plainly his achievements. The names of these incredibly successful restaurants will speak for themselves: Balthazar, Pastis, Cafe Luxembourg, The Odean, Lucky Strike, Pravda, Schiller’s and Nell’s.
Morandi is the Italian jewel in his restaurant crown, located at the bustling intersection of 7th Ave, Perry St, and Waverly Place. Supremely atmoshperic, Morandi ushers you to Tuscany with rustic wood furniture, exposed brick, jugs of red wine lining the walls, loaves of fresh bread bursting out of baskets, and a warm yellow glow that saturates the dining room. The servers whisk around in plain clothing with white napkin aprons, as much a part of the theme as the decor.
The menu is classic Italian featuring plenty of prosciutto, seafood, mozzarella, tomato, housemade pasta specialities, and fresh mediterranean flavors. The dishes conjure images of olive trees, that beautiful Italian light filtering through branches, fresh baked bread, rolling vineyards, and charming ancient Italian villages in the hills. The dishes, in line with the decor, set a genuine mood.
The food itself is fresh and tasty. It is home-cooking, uncomplicated and just good. Everything tastes freshly bought and cooked, as though the fruits and vegetables were just picked, the meat just slaughtered, the fish just caught, and the milk just delivered. It’s the type of hearty meal you would expect from an elegant kitchen in the hills of Tuscany.
My preferred meal here is brunch, for the Keith McNally brand tends to bring out the ‘fancy people’ for dinner. At brunch, everything is more relaxed and more casual (despite the almost guaranteed wait time, particularly for the outdoor sidewalk seating in the summer). If you get there early enough, snag a table near the windows and sit leisurely with a cup of wonderfully strong coffee or perhaps a mimosa made even more delicious by the fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Morandi has it all: delicious food, a healthy hustle and bustle, charming and cozy decor, great service, and a well-respected pedigree. A wonderful casual option for meeting up with friends or family, Morandi offers something for everyone, from Meatpacking glamazons to parents with small children.