A Black Manhattan in Little Italy
I love happy accidents.
As we planned our long-awaited first trip to New York City, I asked lots of folks for advice. One came from New York transplant-to-L.A. bartender Joe Swifka, who among other places highly recommended Torrisi Italian Specialties in Little Italy. I looked them up, found them highly regarded and looked forward to our visit. However, I somehow failed to notice that they’re closed on Mondays, which was the day we of course chose to go there.
Frak. Now what?
Well, here we are on Mulberry Street in Little Italy. As if this is the only restaurant anywhere around! I know that Mulberry Street has developed into something of a tourist trap, but I’d heard that there were good new places to be found, with a little help from the Internets. We walked across the street and a couple of doors down and found a place that was open, a place I wasn’t familiar with called Rubirosa Ristorante .. where I proceeded to have some of the best Italian food I’d ever had.
Happy accidents. Love ‘em. More on the food in a bit.
I was very taken by their cocktail menu, too. Out of ten cocktails listed, four contained amaro of some kind and all of them looked really good. This was the one that really attracted my attention, though.
It wouldn’t be difficult to detect a particular joy for Manhattan variations on this weblog and in my taste, and this was one I hadn’t come across before. It’s simple, just swapping out the sweet Italian vermouth for a bittersweet Sicilian amaro called Averna, which is one of my favorites — herbal, bitter but quite pleasant, citrusy, with a touch of floral and caramel flavors and a hint of licorice. Dashes of aromatic and orange bitters give the cocktail even more backbone. This was a wonderful drink, and another great example of how something fairly simple — two ingredients and a couple of dashes of bitters — could also be so complex.
Captivated as I was, for some reason I took a picture of the menu to remember the drink selection and not a picture of the ruttin’ drink, which I was happy to reproduce at home with a quick and dirty Instagram snap.
2 ounces rye whiskey (Rittenhouse 100 proof, preferably)
1 ounce Amaro Averna
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash orange bitters (Miracle Mile or Regans’ would be my choice)
Combine with ice, stir for 20-30 seconds and strain into chilled cocktail couple.
Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.
This would not be my only Black Manhattan in New York, either … I received another one as a welcoming cocktail in another borough. More on that in another post. First, the food!
The pizza at Rubirosa was some of the best I’ve ever had, right up there with Domenica in New Orleans. This is real Italian-style pizza, not swill from corporate delivery trucks. Fresh ingredients, thin, crisp crust with sauce almost all the way to the edge, which itself is crisp and crunchy like a cracker — my very favorite style of pizza crust. This one is sweet sausage, broccoli rabe, roasted garlic and mozzarella (my favorite of the two, although I enjoyed both):
Also, mushroom, prosciutto, peas and pecorono:
Spaghetti alla chitarra, with meatballs. Perfect house-made pasta, perfect meatballs. My granny wasn’t Italian but if I had a Nonna she’d have said, “Not bad!” Which would mean, just about the best ever although probably not as good as hers because nobody’s is, even though she doesn’t exist. (Following? No? Have another Black Manhattan.)
This was easily the best cannoli I’ve ever had. Leave the gun. DEFINITELY take this cannoli.
The filling was light as a feather yet still rich, and not as dense and overpowering as some cannoli tend to be. Perfectly crisp shell, filled by hand to order and not sitting around getting soggy all day. Perfetto!
We had a few other things as well — some very good arancine, some lovely wine. I didn’t take a lot of photos that day, as we were too busy just having a great meal and great drinks and a great time with our friends, all of whom were mercilessly slagging me for how completely banjaxed I got at the Midtown gastropub where he had dinner following my epic cocktail consumption the night before at Clover Club. I suppose I had that coming.