Review: Morello Bistro

Mezza-mezza dining in stunning Greenwich landmark digs.

Inauspicious, at best…yet the divine pastas at Morello instantly erased our bitter memories. A melting, aromatic gnocchi, rolled in a pan with brown butter and served with mildly piggy speck and pleasantly salty Moliterno cheese, stopped conversation at the table as we parried forks to snag each creamy pillow. (FYI: a couple of shared appetizers of pasta are a good substitute for lackluster antipasti; split orders are not penalized on the bill.) Also good was a soulful, lavishly rich garganelli alla Bolognese, whose flavors spoke of the slow passage of time, root vegetables, and pork.

Refreshing, too, is that Morello’s story doesn’t end with pastas. We found a special of perfectly rendered duck breast, whose crisp, well-seasoned skin yielded an ideal â…› inch of melt-in-the-mouth fat—before, in turn, revealing a uniformly pink, beefsteak-like magret. Its accompaniment of well-seasoned baby turnips added a comforting complement to the juicy meat, though—to pick—the dish’s broccoli rabe contorno was puckeringly salted. A side of creamy polenta was better, and so buttery that you could have spread it on toast. Meanwhile, a lovely grilled whole branzino arrived, as do many of Morello’s mains, in a cast-iron Staub pan. The fish’s salty, crisp skin contrasted well with creamy flesh and partnering borlotti beans, while the whole was given some sparkle with melted fennel stalks and salty olives.

The Catalan vaults at Morello are showstoppers.

Only a main of veal Milanese flew seriously wide of the mark. Apparently sans salt or a squeeze of lemon, this plate-sized, breaded and fried disc landed totally flat. The dish was not helped by a generous side of dressed arugula, about which our waiter should have warned us: we’d started our meal with a large dish of a nearly identical salad.

Yet along with a glorious setting, Morello offers a seductive wine list that features many Italian bottles in the cheap-and-cheerful under-$40 range. Those feeling more abstemious will be pleased by a gently priced by-the-glass list—we especially liked our Saladini Pilastri Pecorino at an easy seven bucks.

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Morello’s desserts can shoot past rich into overwhelming, like an ill-conceived and oily pile of bomboloni that spurted geysers of crème anglaise when pierced. A fudgy chocolate torte was a one-note smile-blackener, though a tiramisu was tasty, if a little rushed. The cake was strangely unsoaked: its layers perched on top of the dairy, rather than having been given time to unite in a fluffy cloud of mascarpone and coffee. Best was a sweet (and untangy) cheesecake given not-enough oomph from lemon sauce: gourmets might skip dessert entirely and opt for more dependable glasses of sweet wine.

Is Morello worth a visit? Yes, though with a few serious caveats. Consider antipasti and desserts flyover states, though good bowls of pasta will heal all wounds. Of course Rafael Guastavino’s fabulous ceiling helps (and a few gently priced glasses of wine don’t hurt, either).

Morello Bistro ★★
253 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich, CT
(203) 661-3443

Hours: lunch Mon to Fri 12 pm–2:30 pm; dinner Mon to Wed 5 pm–9:30 pm, Thurs to Sat 5 pm–10 pm; brunch Sat 12 pm–3 pm, Sun 11 am–3 pm. Appetizers: $7–$18; entrées: $15–$35; desserts: $8–$10.

★★★★—Outstanding ★★★—Very Good
★★—Good ★—Fair

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