211 Waverly Pl., at Charles St.; 212-627-7575
It has been three and a half years since Keith McNally opened a restaurant, which has given New York’s most inspired (and most imitated) manufacturer of atmosphere just enough time to scavenge the flea markets and accumulate a new inventory of assiduously aged furnishings. On February 25, he will open Morandi, his first Italian restaurant, at a Greenwich Village intersection that savvy cabbies (the ones not already idling three blocks away at the Waverly Inn, that is) ought to start circling now. The low-ceilinged, artfully rusticated room is trademark McNally, a warm and multitextured amalgam of 150-year-old Ligurian tile and used brick, beaten copper and old pine, intersected with racks of Balthazar Bakery bread and rimmed with shelves of straw-covered Chianti bottles. In the kitchen is Jody Williams, a chef McNally has admiringly tracked from Il Buco to Giorgione to Gusto before recruiting her to implement her version of seasonal, regional Italian fare. On an eating expedition from Rome to Milan last fall, Williams amassed a supply of antique cooking tools, rudimentary devices for cleaning puntarelle and extruding dumplings that she’s as excited about as some of her new dishes. There’s frati, the aniseed-scented sugar doughnuts of Lucca; gnocco fritto and passatelli from Emilia-Romagna; dried pastas and fresh ones like pizzoccheri, made from rye flour; and daily specials like Sunday’s bollito misto (Williams’s favorite). There will be sandwiches at lunch, wines from every region of Italy, and housemade gelati in “mature” flavors like chocolate-and-Amarone. Morandi may be a departure for the Francophiliac McNally, culinarily speaking, but like Balthazar, Pastis, and Schiller’s Liquor Bar before it, the trattoria will keep brasserie hours, serving continuously from eight in the morning to midnight. Delivery to come in the spring.
204 W. 55th St., nr. Broadway; 212-245-1234
Aspen owner Greg Brier has apparently swapped his position by the après-ski fire for one on the metaphorical couch. This week, he opens Amalia, named after Sigmund Freud’s mother and located adjacent to the Dream Hotel. But there was nothing subconscious in his choice of a chef: The coastal Mediterranean menu was concocted by Ivy Stark, a recent veteran of both Dos Caminos and Rosa Mexicano. Her new culinary direction has yielded dishes like warm duck-confit-stuffed dates with dried-fig mostarda and serrano ham, and her American Sommelier Association certification has enabled her to assemble an eclectic, whimsically categorized list of food-friendly wines (“tantalizing” and “agile” reds, “elegant” and “lively” whites). Pastry chef Johnny Miele, late of Aureole, offers finales like tangerine custard with Meyer-lemon frozen soufflé. The design, which incorporates leather-clad, barrel-vaulted ceilings and a black Murano-glass chandelier, might come off as a bit brooding—but there’s no need to overanalyze it.
Park Slope’s modern Israeli restaurant, Miriam, has spawned a Cobble Hill branch (229 Court St., nr. Baltic St., Brooklyn; 718-522-2220) … Nino Selimaj, owner of Nino’s Positano, Nino’s Tuscany, and plain old Nino’s, has yet another Nino on the way. This one’s a pizzeria and it’s called … Nino’s Bellissima Pizza (890 Second Ave., nr. 47th St.; 212-355-5540).