Every few months, I receive a list detailing the subjects of my restaurant reviews. It’s an email that I anticipate with some interest, since it informs me where I’ll be spending my evenings in the foreseeable future. My husband and I pore over the list, hoping for the primo assignments. As Italophiles with a discounted deal on a rental apartment in Bologna, we were thrilled to see Mima in the email: there was much rejoicing.
Mima is the Irvington “vinoteca” opened by the folks behind wildly popular Zuppa in Yonkers. The casual Italian enoteca-cum-osteria jumped almost directly into the charming, hex-tile-and-pressed-tin space recently vacated by Red Hat—which, in turn, moved into triple-sized digs on the Irvington riverfront. We clicked on the website to look over Mima’s wine and menu—fabulous!—just the sort of stuff we love.
First impressions were not disappointing. Mima had the good sense to keep the charm that Red Hat left behind—the pressed tin, the hex tile, the intimacy—and even added some of its own. We particularly liked Mima’s casual chalk board listing wine specials, and the hortatory black T-shirts on its pleasant, efficient waitsaff. “Drink Wine,” the garments ordered—so we did.
Mima’s wines are available in mezzos (three ounces), quartinos (six ounces) and bottiglie (full 25-ounce bottles), and are conveniently described by grape, region, and where that region appears on the “boot.” It’s a thoughtful, welcoming introduction to the wines of Italy—which can feel overwhelmingly complicated, given Italy’s profusion of tiny regionalisms. We started with a refreshing, yet resonant, Sauvignon Blanc from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which was just the thing for a warm evening, and a lovely selection from Mima’s cheeses and affetati. Affetati plates of salumi and hams (affetati means “sliced things”) are a common antipasto in Italy, and Mima’s selection is appealing. We enjoyed our wines along with bites of prosciutto, speck, and mortadella, as well as Parmigiano-Reggiano and a mild, young Robiola cheese. On another night, we sampled an elegant Col di Bacche Morrelino di Scanso from that trendy Tuscan wine region, Maremma.
How sweet it is: Mima’s veal involtini struck the wrong taste chord
So far, so great. Sadly, things went downhill. Our starter of burrata with panzanella was icy cold—a definite buzz kill with burrata. This Puglian cheese (which is like mozzarella but made with cream and not milk) is all about the texture: its firm skin yields to a bursting, improbably soft interior, like a grape. When served cold and firm throughout, burrata’s textural beauty is compromised. The panzanella was icy as well, and no one wants to eat chilled, olive-oil dressed bread salad. Worse, a wild-mushroom polenta starter—a traditional dish we love—was seriously over-salted, and the mellower notes of sautéed mushrooms were overwhelmed by acidic tomatoes.
We encountered similar gaffes on other nights. While a duck salsicce starter (served with caponata) was fine, a fritto misto (mixed fried seafood) was under-salted. These lightly battered and crisply fried fish—primarily composed of squid, but with a shrimp and a couple of scallops thrown in—were supposed to be seasoned with lemon/fennel salt. While we found some salt, it was not enough, and while both of the scallops were perfectly cooked and creamy inside, one had the iodine note of old age.
While a penne with broccoli rabe, butter beans, and pancetta was a winner, a rigatoni with veal Bolognaise was disappointing. Also a dish listed as trecce with egg, onions, smoked bacon, and black pepper (I’d have called it gemelli carbonara), was a delicious soulful pasta standard, sexily presented with an unbroken yolk. Irritatingly, though, it was marred by un-drained pasta: the hollow tubes of double-helix-shaped gemelli poured water into the silky yolk-based sauce.
Secondi were an interesting mix of standards and innovations. While a special of soft-shell crabs (listed with scallions and garlic in a tomato sauce) was perfectly fried and succulent, the load of garlic slices in the sauce were browned until bitter. We scraped the sauce off; the crabs were perfect. Meanwhile, a veal involtini with pine nuts, currants, bread crumbs, escarole, borlotti beans, and vino cotto sounded great on the menu, but the dish’s balance was skewed; it was too sweet.
Mima has a couple of good desserts. Like its sister restaurant Zuppa’s excellent fried zeppole, the Italian take on donuts, Mima offers bombolini—tiny, warm, fried dough balls. Though slightly oily, not necessarily a bad thing, these addictive little balls (bombs) were a delicious pile of tiny sweets. Also good, a tangy, very cheesy ricotta cheesecake—which is even better with a glass from Mima’s intriguing dessert wine (like the Brachetto or Moscato d’Asti).
Though there were a number of kitchen goofs at Mima, there is much to recommend it. Mima has a very cute space, a welcoming, fun-to-explore wine list, and a pleasant vibe. Our servers were all friendly and even solicitous—in one case offering, unprompted, to split a pasta dish between two diners. This thoughtful gesture saved us money and, in the end, won our gratitude. Mima’s infectious, spontaneous friendliness is winning, and even helps to compensate for the kitchen gaffes—especially after a quartino or two.
â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…—Outstanding â˜…â˜…â˜…—Very Good