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All (Italian)-American

Two haute cooks concoct a newfangled Italian deli, minus the Italian part.

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Mario Carbone, left, and Rich Torrisi.  

The radical concept behind Torrisi Italian Specialties, a shoebox-size Italian deli of sorts, is that there won’t be any Italian specialties. “No Reggiano, no San Marzano, no Pecorino!” says co-chef-owner Rich Torrisi as fervently as if he were a member of an anti-Parmigiano-Reggiano association or a Chefs Against San Marzano Tomatoes movement. Torrisi Italian Specialties, you see, isn’t your average Italian deli, and Torrisi and partner Mario Carbone aren’t your average Boar’s Head–slicing deli clerks. Rather, they’re accomplished young chefs who’ve cooked at places like Café Boulud, A Voce, and Del Posto, and then left all that behind for the nostalgic notion of opening a modest storefront done up to look like an old-fashioned New York food shop—Russ & Daughters is their ideal. At the same time, though—and here’s the crazy-genius part—the chef-partners are restricting their pantry to domestic ingredients, using the stylized setting to celebrate American cheeses, breads, olive oils, pastas, and cured meats, from Parisi Bakery rolls to La Quercia’s Iowa prosciutto. Even though Carbone and Torrisi are shunning imports, their philosophy is very much Italian: cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients culled from as close as possible is practically the definition of that country’s multiregional cuisine. And even though everything here is American, the menu reads Italian (or rather Italian-American, that beloved bastardization), with antipasti and old-school hero-shop sandwiches like chicken parm and potato-and-egg. Eventually, the deli will morph at night into a sixteen-seat restaurant serving a set menu of classic Italian-American fare like pork chops with vinegar peppers. Homegrown products, carefully selected and prepared, served family-style: “In our opinion,” says Torrisi, “that’s the truest expression of Italian food.”

Our Fall Preview coverage continues throughout the Grub Street Network. Look for openings and trends in Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles.


Torrisi Italian Specialties
250 Mulberry St., nr. Prince St.; no phone yet
Opens late Oct.


Related:

Fall Preview 2009

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