There tends to be a fast and furious frenzy of restaurant openings in the fall, meaning that, invariably, a few notable spots tend to get lost in the shuffle. So in case your attention has been duly diverted by Dirty French and Marta, we’d like to direct it back to a Meatpacking District newcomer, Mulino a Vino, which quietly debuted recently in a rather under-the-radar location — the basement level of a West 14th St. apartment building.
It’s inarguably an opening of note — especially considering that Italian culinary royalty, Davide Scabin (of the two Michelin starred Combal.Zero, in Rivoli), is the chef and co-owner. He’s teamed up with Paolo Meregalli (a partner in the original Mulino a Vino, in Monza) to create an establishment that focuses first and foremost on their 4,000 bottle-strong collection of wine. (Wine lovers take serious note!) In fact, servers act as “mini sommeliers,” steering you towards the vino first, and suggesting appropriate food pairings afterwards.
Each dish intrigues on Scabin’s concise but creative menu, such as “Super Tuscan Cecina,” a chickpea pancake with tomato carpaccio, and basil & mozzarella foam, “Ravioli Di Pollo Arrosto,” essentially a roasted chicken dinner tucked in a wrapper (poultry, potatoes, ricotta and sautéed mushrooms), and “Skyline Insalata,” a selection of market vegetables topped with frozen Tuscany pate bon bons. But his penchant for molecular flourishes is most elegantly expressed in “Bombolone Cacio e Pepe,” which, rest assured, has nothing to do with dessert. Instead of using a sweet yeast dough, Scabin’s donuts are actually pillows of aerated pasta, and instead of oozing custard or chocolate, his aromatic pastries accurately mimic the flavors of that classic noodle dish, Cacio e Pepe. Take one bite of the warm, cheese-dusted sphere, and a molten river of luscious, black pepper-infused pecorino cream dribbles straight down your chin.
It takes a lot to compete in a season that includes yet another venture from the Torrisi boys, Roman pizza à la Danny Meyer, and many more to come. But if anything can lure us to a half-hidden, subterranean lair in the Meatpacking District, it’s the promise of full-bodied, fruit-forward glasses of Barolo, accompanied by steaming platefuls of deceptively savory Cacio e Pepe Bomboloni.