January 29 2010
I’ve been looking for a neighbourhood café for years, but living in my part of downtown Manhattan, this has proved almost impossible. Nolita was once the fiefdom of the sharp-suited Mob boss John Gotti, but now seems home to nothing but indie women’s clothing boutiques. That changed a few weeks ago, though, when the vacant store next to my apartment re-opened as Torrisi, a closet-sized Italian-American caffè that’s now my daily morning pitstop.
This tiny space is run by two friends, both refugees from the kitchens of Café Boulud, Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone. They dreamed of opening an Italian-American deli with a difference – imagine a place with décor by Tony Soprano, and clientele by Carrie Bradshaw. Together, the pair cooked up a homey place: bare wooden tables with rickety chairs, red checked shirts on the counter girls, hearty salads sold by the pound plus hero and roll sandwiches with chicken parmesan and home-roasted turkey (sandwiches: $10; vegetables: $3-$5 per quarter pound).
It’s an all-hands operation: the girl who operates the cash-till makes the morning’s cakes and candies at the start of her shift. Best of all, they remember regulars’ names and orders (mine’s an espresso ristretto). Even the Dapper Don would approve.