After eight years, I returned to Morso, Tuscan pioneer Pino Luongo’s Mediterranean restaurant under the 59th Street Bridge, as their guest. “Morso” is Italian for small bites, with most dishes offered either “Tutto” (regular sized) or “Morso” (a smaller bite, generally two -thirds the size of Tutto).
What a fabulous option! Since we were sampling lots, we ordered all Morso portions with the kitchen dividing those for us. Prices in this post indicate both sizes when available.
Our first taste was of their polpo alla griglia, some of the most tender grilled octopus I’ve ever had (Yes, that good!) with arugula and roasted tomatoes ($22/30). Don’t miss. Our salads were just as good. The cavoletti consisted of crispy Brussels sprouts over arugula and thinly sliced fennel with crumbled feta cheese ($18) and the evening’s special blood orange supremes with fresh fennel ($18) with fresh mint. The fennel would have been easier to eat if had been thinner slices as in the other salad.
I’d recommend both the spaghetti with caramelized onions, tomato sauce and parmesan cheese ($18/24) and the spinach pappardelle tossed with braised cabbage and crumbles sausage sprinkled with grated pecorino romano cheese ($18/24). I had to restrain myself from finishing it all as I knew we had also ordered the seared cod special in a tomato and black olives sauce topped with shrimp and accompanied by diced beets mixed with kale ($32) and the sole in a white wine butter sauce served with zucchini and eggplant ($24/36).
Dessert ($13) of pear tart tartin, a warm tart with gelato all drizzled with caramel sauce plus the evenings blueberry tart special with housemade lemon gelato ($13). Yummy combination.
Well worth the trip!
Upper East Side
420 E 59th St(between First and York)
New York, NY 10022
Hundreds paid tribute after the passing of legendary celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain this week. Page Six spoke with friends and peers who shared their thoughts below:
Chef Pino Luongo, Bourdain’s mentor and one of his early bosses
Anthony started his career as the executive chef with me at Coco Pazzo Teatro [in Midtown]. Immediately I saw that he was a guy with a great sense of humor; very sharp-minded, very opinionated about many different things. He was good-looking, confident, had a big voice, and smoked Marlboro Reds — everything I like in a person. He used to make me laugh a lot. It was not funny jokes, it was funny dark observations on the reality we lived in.
We clicked, even though his inclination was [as] more of a French chef than a Italian chef. One of the only things we had in common in food was that we both like Brandade, a French salted cod — it’s where Italian meets French cooking. He made a killer Brandade. It was my favorite among all the French dishes he wanted to cook.
At the time he was working for me, he was thinking about writing what became “Kitchen Confidential.” I knew he was going to be a great writer because he wrote the way he talked.
“Anthony B. was the Hemingway of gastronomy.”
For a generation of chefs and food enthusiasts, Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential was a passport to the seamy, sexy world of restaurant kitchens.
The celebrated TVculinary and travel journalist died from an apparent suicide in his hotel room in France, where he was working on a TV show about culinary traditions, according to CNN. He was found by his longtime friend, chef Eric Ripert.
It was a tragic loss for the food world.
Chefs and friends paid tribute to him on Friday.
“I loved the guy. I really got to know him when I was opening Coco Pazza Teatro around ’93. Anthony was already working at Le Madri. One day he called me, he said ‘I’d like to be Executive Chef at Teatro.’ I said, ‘Let’s meet.’ He came and we smoked Marlboro Reds. It was one thing we had in common. I told him to bring me something he’s passionate about. [He later] came to see me, he opened up a container, and it was a beautiful brandade. Somehow he knew that I loved brandade. He used to make a killer one. For a while we picked at the brandade and smoked our cigarettes, and that’s when I got to know him—how bright he was. Not just about food. So I gave him the Teatro job. But slowly I came to realize that although he was talented, the pressure of the kitchen was bothering him. While Anthony likes to be among the people, he was not the leader. One night I walked into Teatro and the dining room was full, but there was no food on any of the tables. I went into kitchen, and Anthony said, ‘I can’t be here, salad this, salad that.’ I said, ‘I’ll expedite, you get behind the line.’ We managed to serve dinner. After that, we took a walk and smoked on 46th Street. He said, ‘I’m leaving, I’m going to take a break, maybe I’m going to cook some French.’ And then, all of a sudden he wrote a book [Kitchen Confidential, in which Luongo is famously portrayed as the ‘Dark Prince of Italian Fine Dining’]. The last time I saw him, a couple months ago, he talked about how happy he was to be a Dad.
We need more people like Anthony Bourdain in this world.” – Pino Luongo, chef-owner of Coco Pazzo
It seemed as though the entire Sutton Place neighborhood had gathered at Morso on a recent Tuesday evening. The contemporary 95-seat restaurant, lined with vintage 1950s-style graphics, was packed with couples, groups of friends, families and a handful of solo diners.
They sat in the white-tablecloth dining room and at the hammered-copper bar; several relaxed on a patio that would soon be enclosed for the winter. Others milled about, socializing with regulars and staffers.
Restaurants in this upscale part of Manhattan are known for pricey menus that feed a deep-pocketed and perhaps a more distant clientele. Morso is different.
Since it opened five years ago, on East 59th Street between First Avenue and Sutton Place, the polished but unpretentious Italian restaurant has become part of the neighborhood’s fabric.
Pino Luongo sat down at the table to join us. “Did you enjoy the pasta?” he began. Our immediate response was, “Absolutely.” The kitchen had prepared a few of Morso’s staple dishes for: the Pollo Martini, the Bucatini Cacio e Pepe, the Carciofi, and the Carciofi Fritti. Pino pointed between the latter two, explaining how, in focusing on using fresh, seasonal ingredients, he is constantly inspired to build several dishes around a single ingredient. Our bucatini was prepared before our very eyes in the kitchen, where the sous-chef spoke of a camaraderie driven by ideals set with Pino’s presence. It is no anomaly to find Pino in the kitchen most nights, getting his hands dirty and making sure each dish comes out the best it can be – which, we learned, of course means “always cooking the pasta in with the sauce.
The menu offers dishes available as morso (smaller servings), or tutto (full size).The result is incredible food, cooked with care and precisely seasoned.Here is a place you are going to want to return to again and again.Affordable, excellent and run with style and panache by a hands on Pino Luongo, who after all, is a legend in his own right.
MIDTOWN— Flo Fab reports that Pino Luongo, owner of Centolire on the Upper East Side, is opening a restaurant at 420 East 59th Street in the spring. It will be called Morso.
The name of the restaurant is “Morso” which translates to “bite”. Genious idea. Perhaps the nicest thing about the menu is that most of the dishes are offered in two sizes: morso (bite) and tutto (all). There’s a bit of pop to the restaurant as well. Walls are covered in poster art that hits a Warhol meets Fellini feeling.
The restaurant is elegant without feeling stuffy. The mod-style graphic designs adorning the walls are fresh, modern and playful which sets the mood perfectly for the evening’s meal.I enjoyed every last bite at Morso and recommend it heartily. If you find yourself on the East side of Manhattan, make your way over.
Morso is a culmination of a life in food and a passion for culinary excellence.With the essence of his homeland at heart and a truly original style of cooking, Luongo shaped the Italian menus and restaurants we consider as classics today.
The Latest From Pino Luongo: The location, 420 East 59th Street, has plenty of history. It had been the luxurious Palace, then the first edition of Sandro’s, then Bouterin and, very briefly, it was a Turkish restaurant. Next spring it is to become Morso, a new Italian restaurant from Pino Luongo, the owner and frequent cook at Centolire on the Upper East Side. For his new place, Mr. Luongo, who once owned Tuscan Square in Rockefeller Center, is looking back to Le Madri, his restaurant in Chelsea.
Southern Italian and Mediterranean dishes at this new Upper East Side restaurant come in large (tutto) or small (morso) portions. Chef Timothy Ryan previously cooked at Bouley, Picholine and Le Cirque.
Each meal was perfectly paced by a courteous and well-versed wait staff, and unfolded in an airy and elegant dining room accentuated by mood lighting and a blithe décor inspired by 1960s Italian poster art.
Pino Luongo (Centolire, Coco Pazzo), New York’s original champion of Tuscan cuisine, will debut Morso, his first restaurant in nine years, on September 30. Bridging the gap between nibblers and big-ticket diners, the toque takes a novel approach to the menu, dividing it up by main ingredient (vegetables, meats, poultry) and offering the majority of the dishes in large (tutto) or small (morso) portions.
Morso, in its bright conviviality and focused menu, is a winning contrast to the faux-rustic trattoria style of the past couple of years, and the food, while straightforward and traditional, has small touches that make big differences, not least in the perfect al dente tenderness of the pastas, which so many NYC Italian restaurants continue to botch.
I am usually disappointed by Italian deserts, but Morso delivered one of the best slices of cheese cake I’ve ever eaten – and I’ve eaten a few. For those who live on the Upper East Side and are always looking for a wonderful post-movie or after-work place to go, your wait is over. Morso is a keeper.
The restaurant gives off a cool modern vibe in an effortless way. Morso truly is fabulous. It is a restaurant with sophisticated dishes with fresh ingredients. The décor is warm and inviting. The staff was very friendly on both occasions and I look forward to returning soon.
An under-the-radar Italian joint dubbed Morso quietly opened in Midtown East where, as anyone familiar with the ‘hood knows, a solid new restaurant is a very welcome addition.The menu, which is quite large, will feature traditional options like osso buco and steamed mussels with garlic and chorizo. A 70-seat alfresco space will open in April 2012 and feature views of the Queensborough Bridge and the trams to Roosevelt Island.