When someone mentions going out for Italian, what jumps to mind? Today, it could be a range of things, from wood-fired ovens turning out crackling-crusted pizzas to restaurants specializing in one of the many regional cuisines found across the peninsular nation.
A 2009 study in the International Journal of Hospitality Management noted the growing popularity of regional Italian restaurants in the U.S. and predicted it would be one of the factors that contribute to the category of Italian food as a whole over the next decade. In Chicago, regional Italian shines at spots like Piccolo Sogno, which features vegetable-forward Tuscan cooking, as well as the Mediterranean-focused Nico Osteria. Los Angeles’ Italian hotspots include Mother Wolf, which focuses on Roman gourmet, and chiSpacca, one of the nation’s few Italian steakhouses.
Not long ago, though, Italian cuisine was a singular idea for most Americans. As Bon Appétit points out, from roughly the end of WWI through the 1970s, Italian cuisine in America was defined by the outsized portions of what are colloquially known as “red sauce restaurants.”
Those dens of conspicuous consumption have since been supplanted by places offering lighter, more regional meals, but the power of nostalgia shouldn’t be underestimated. Chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi have launched an NYC restaurant empire centered around red sauce style Italian cooking (via Major Food Group website.) And their burgeoning empire continues to grow with the announcement of their newest NYC outpost.
As reported in Eater NY, Major Food Group (MFG) and the chef duo will open the doors of Torrisi Bar and Restaurant on December 1st. Housed on the ground floor of the Puck Building in Nolita, Torrisi Bar and Restaurant gives a nod to the pair’s first restaurant, Torrisi Italian Specialties, and pays homage to the cuisine’s red sauce heritage, but in unpredictable ways (via the New York Times). Helming the kitchen is Charlie England, a veteran of their flagship location, Carbone, and his menu blends Italian techniques with the diverse flavors of New York City, as evidenced by dishes like short ribs spiked with pastrami seasonings and Jamaican-style ragu.
Speaking with Rolling Stone, Carbone talked about the inspiration he and Torrisi had for opening an older Italian concept. “That style of fine dining Italian-American was starting to die. So, we wanted to make sure that we built something that would continue on.”
While Torrisi Bar and Restaurant is undoubtedly a nod to MFG’s heritage, the group is no one-trick pony when it comes to culinary experiences. Their corporate NYC page lists eight restaurant concepts — not including the soon-to-open establishment. Those include Italian spots Carbone, seafood-focused ZZ’s Clam Bar, and sandwich spot Parm, but also Gallic-inspired Dirty French, diner Sadelle’s, sushi-focused The Lobster Club, and event-space The Pool.