All successful restaurateurs have their own theatrical style, and Morandi has many of the earmarks of earlier McNally productions. There is the trademark magazine rack by the door stuffed with unread papers from abroad, and the restaurant just began serving an Italianate version of that McNally specialty, the hip weekend brunch. If you need a profiterole fix for dessert, the closest equivalent is a spume of chocolate gelato muddled with little brioche muffins and a cloud of whipped cream. There are also plates of meager, cigarillo-size canollis, a boilerplate version of a chocolate-covered tartufo, and a decent version of a cassata, made with zabaglione and crushed pistachios. But these desserts do nothing to alleviate the sense that we’ve seen this show somewhere before. Morandi has none of the glitter of Balthazar, the manufactured raffishness of Schiller’s, or even the ditzy, slightly louche decadence of Pastis. Everything about the place feels characterless, haphazard, and slightly off-key. Which is to say, it feels like any other new, faux-rustic Italian joint, in a city filled with them.
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Address: 211 Waverly Pl., nr. Seventh Ave. S.; 212-627-7575
Hours: Lunch, Monday through Friday noon to 3 p.m. Brunch, Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner, 5:30 p.m. to midnight daily.
Prices: Appetizers, $5 to $15; entrées, $15 to $45.
Ideal Meal: Fried artichokes or fritto misto, octopus with black olives, roasted veal chop, cassata.
Note: As usual in McNallyland, breakfast or lunch is the time to visit. Pork hounds, take note of the generously stuffed lunchtime porchetta panini.
Scratchpad: Is this a three-star restaurant like Balthazar? No. Neither the food nor the location here deserves more than one.