First impressions go a long way. From the moment you pass through the threshold at one of the newer dining experiences at Roosevelt Field Mall, the relaxed ambience of Osteria Morini feels rustic, casual and friendly, which is exactly what the brand creators were going for. In Italian, “osteria” means a place where the owner “hosts” guests.
The brand launched in 2010 in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, opening in Garden City less than three years ago. It features the soulful cuisine of Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy, the birthplace of some traditional flavors like prosciutto, mortadella, parmigiano, and balsamic vinegar.
The Long Island venue operates under the kitchen direction of Chef Andrew Minitelli. Minitelli grew up around food in his hometown of Cranford, New Jersey. His uncle’s pizzeria was a family staple, and he worked there throughout high school and later when he attended college at Seton Hall University.
After college, Minitelli realized he missed the camaraderie and fast pace of kitchen life, and enrolled in the French Culinary Institute–now International Culinary Center–in Manhattan.
With a culinary degree in hand, Minitelli got his first job at Osteria Morini in SoHo as a Garde manger cook in 2013. Over the past six years, he has worked his way up to Sous Chef, and now he runs the kitchen as Chef de Cuisine. Minitelli has mastered the pasta-making skills and prime meat and fish preparations that Osteria Morini is well known for.
When I arrived at Osteria Morini, I immediately began chatting with the wait staff about the menu. I was curious to learn their favorite dishes and ingredients as well as what some of the most popular choices seemed to be. This staff knew their menu. I asked three waiters and separately, all three picked nearly the same favorites from each course (appetizers, pasta, entree) selections.
Their favorites collectively were: insalata cacio e pepe, calamari, polpettine, burrata and fegatini crostini, cappelletti, torcia nera, tagliatelle and agnello (a seasonal item on the menu).
My Food Experience
I left it to the bartender to surprise me with a cocktail choice. It was perfect. He selected the Black Barrel cocktail made with a smooth Evan Williams bourbon whiskey, Luxardo Cherry Sangue Morlacco liqueur and blackberries. The cocktail was pulpy and not too sweet.
I also started off my meal with the antipasti (appetizer) of polpettine meatballs made with prosciutto and mortadella topped with pomodoro sauce, robiolina (made from full fat cow’s milk) and parmigiano cheeses. The meatballs were solid, and had a pleasant and consistent texture. Don’t fill up on these just yet though. There is still plenty to come.
Next I had the polipo, a poached octopus tentacle served with yogurt sauce and potatoes, over bitter frisee greens and mildly spicy radicchio and a garlicky, parsley-based gremolata sauce. The octopus was cooked perfectly with a little bit of char to seal the flavor.
For my pasta dish, my decision was difficult to make since the waitstaff had recommended so many great favorites. I chose the cappelletti, a perfectly bite-sized ravioli pillow with truffle and ricotta filling, topped with a great butter sauce and accented with prosciutto. These, like the meatballs, make it easy to forget how much you’ve eaten; you can mindlessly pop these like candy. It is difficult for me to review anything with prosciutto or truffles objectively. I like these two ingredients so much; I am quick to say, anything with either or both of these flavors is automatically stellar.
I chose the petroniana for my entree, a crispy veal cutlet with prosciutto cotto, spinach, parmigiano and truffle crema. The cutlet was evenly, but thinly breaded. I expected the truffles to take the lead in this dish, but it did not overpower or steal the show. I was happy with the combination of flavor and texture.
If you have made it this far and still have room to spare, I give you two choices to cap off the meal. The sgroppino emilia was a pleasant, but small dessert with a light scoop of vanilla gelato in Lambrusco (an Italian red wine that is identifiably grapey). Of the two desserts that I tried, this was closer to zero-guilt and a lighter end to the meal. Again, if you honestly have room after all of that wildly delicious comfort food, anything with hazelnut is sure to be filling and satiating. I tried the nocciola (whipped chocolate ganache, hazelnut mousse with chocolate hazelnut crunch sprinkled over the top). There was a hint of sea salt that gave this dessert a nice surprise.
Overall, I felt the portions were generous and all of the staff recommendations were reliable. I felt like I was really dining in someone’s kitchen and they were cooking just for me, and yes, they were.
Signature cocktails and specialty beers—$7 to 15
Appetizers—$15 to 29
Pasta dishes—$15 to 25
Entrees—$30 to 48
Enjoy happy hour specials Wednesday through Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended for peak dining times, especially after 6 p.m. on Fridays and weekends. Parking is available throughout the mall complex.
Osteria Morini is located on the west side of Roosevelt Field Mall (630 Old Country Rd., Garden City). Visit www.osteriamorini.com to learn more.