Sunday, November 8, 2009
Sorella makes me happy. Sure, it's pretty hard for good Italian food to do anything but. However, the fact that two women in their 20s opened this spot after a trip to Northern Italy is truly an inspiration. This is exactly the kind of place that I'd love to call my own - the kind of place perfect for good friends and family to gather. I'm not saying I've ever really wanted to open a restaurant. In fact, I can easily say I much prefer being on the receiving end. But, I can still dream of supporting a close friend in following their dreams and then claiming at least part of their grounds as my own- every restaurant needs a good appetite! Yes, that would be the ideal. If only it were my friends who had gone to Italy and come home to set up Sorella.
The varied layout in Sorella is excellent for nearly any social gathering imaginable. As you walk into the restaurant, most of the front room is occupied by the bar - excellent for glasses of wine or a full meal, and definitely ideal for both. Just a few steps towards the back, there is a large communal table with stools - intended for large groups, but open to friendly diners. The back room of the restaurant, while still elegant, is more laid back with table dining in an indoor garden-like setting. Regardless of where you end up, the food will keep you happy. Inspired by the Piedmont region in the northwest, the menu focuses on wine and small plates. While there are 3 special entrees offered each night, the restaurant's actual intentions are to inspire both sharing and wine consumption. And this place has no problem doing so.
Whether you are seated at the bar or at a table, a white paper cone full of fresh baked bread sticks will accompany you from the start of your experience. These are delicate, thin and topped with just the right amount of salt. If you weren't already planning to eat there, these will surely whet the appetite. While everything we ordered was offered as small plates, the sizes are actually quite generous. I recommend the arugula, prosciutto, black fig and Parmesan salad. We then shared the semolina fritte which is a wheat product similar to polenta. This side is a must. It's not quite as dense as fried polenta and there is an excellent sweet flavor in this dish. My favorite dish was the tajarin - a traditional egg pasta from the Piedmont region - served with lamb ragu, black pepper ricotta, pistachios, and mint - a truly outstanding flavor combination driven by the pepper. I was less impressed with the gnocchi prepared with a fresca cream sauce, brown butter pears and chives. These were mini and not quite as soft as I would have liked - almost resembling a sort of Israeli cous-cous. But, the grilled quail served with Benton's country bacon, black rice, apple, cranberry and arugula brought us right back to the great food and the good life that defines the Piedmont region.
And so, when it came time for dessert, I realized I'm not the only one who'd like to call this place their own. Whoever Molly may be, she has made her way onto the menu and her presence is most certainly known. Molly's birthday cake is a delicious nougat cake with chocolate fudge filling and frosting - and topped with a lit candle, of course. No matter the date, it's the perfect excuse to make a wish and I was more than happy to pose as Molly for the night. There is just no denying that Sorella was designed as a tribute to Piedmont and to great friendships. Here's to becoming a Molly and hoping her wishes come true!
95 Allen St.
New York, NY 10002
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):