Food For Thought — November 13, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Mulino a Vino: The Windmill That Runs on Wine

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mulino a vino interior

Mulino a Vino, a clever play on Italian words, literally means “a windmill that runs on wine.”  More notably, Mulino a Vino is an anomaly because it is a restaurant in the Meatpacking District where you don’t hate everything – in fact, it is just the opposite. This basement wine bar vibe is delightfully enhanced by the spectacular menu and ambitious wine list it accompanies.

My first instinct upon entering Mulino a Vino, which has been open almost a year, is that this dimly lit, subterranean restaurant’s black wood furniture and exposed brick walls lends itself to a perfect date spot if only the clientele was not primarily septuagenarian. The space is sexy and modern, and allows you the freedom to enjoy a few glasses of wine and some snacks at the bar, or sit down on a gorgeous black leather banquette for an extensive four course meal.

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Founder Davide Scabin shares much of the culinary expertise he developed and refined at Combal.zero, his Michelin starred restaurant in Torino, Italy, and has recently passed the reins of his New York City flagship to a twenty-two year old chef named Massimiliano Eandi. Eandi has imparted his own personal flair to the sprawling menu of Italian comfort food, all of which prop up instead of overpower the wine list, arguably this restaurant’s main event.

With over 100 wines, and where each bottle is available by the glass via the Coravin Access system, owner and wine director Paolo Meregalli has expertly crafted a manageable wine list that spans four different categories. “Bright and Lively,” “Clean and Earthy,” “Smooth and Velvety,” and “Big and Luscious” allows each guest to delve fully into the world of Italian wines by flavor profile and textured feel, which is usually a tricky endeavor due to the thousands of regional grape varietals indigenous to Italy. Meregalli’s philosophy is that wine should be easy to understand, and lists easy to navigate, even going so far as to include clever tasting hashtags beneath each main categorical division. He aims to be more involved in assisting the guest based on his or her preferences.

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The food menu itself is similarly organized in terms of portion size (how very European), spanning from “Small to Taste,” which allows for a sampling of half-portion size (how very European), spanning from “Small to Taste”, which allows for a sampling of half-portioned plates, “Medium to Eat,” a single serving option meant solely for one person, and “Large to Share,” for those who can’t shake the impulse to eat family style at an Italian restaurant.

While the menu does shoot for the stars in all areas, the places where Mulino a Vino shines is in its subtle twists on Italian classics. Burrata, cushioned between a light and airy focaccia bun, is adorned with ribbons of smoked prosciutto, which layer a wonderful amount of umami right off the bat. Spaghetti pomodorro squared arrives at the table inside a fat, juicy, heirloom tomato with the top cut off and delicate placed on top of the tomato like a lid hiding wonderfully al dente noodles.

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There are some places where it seems the kitchen is trying a bit too hard to fit into its trendy new digs. Hibiscus risotto with a generous dollop of goat cheese and tiny specks of ivy pesto is daring, but its floral elements are overzealous and left me unable to finish. I felt the same way about the crispy gnocchi, served family style with thin zucchini crisps. Gnocchi is a complex dish in and of itself, something that no matter how many times I try, my reasonable kitchen skills can’t ever seem to quite nail. When served crispy and drizzled in a thickly laden saffron sauce and juxtaposed with Italian fennel sausage slivers, the result makes your senses feel as though you’d been assaulted.

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By the time the next course arrives, I’d already forgotten these slight missteps. Slow cooked spicy chicken, arrived on a charcoal grey slate where a rich beet emulsion artfully sets the stage. Slow cooked and tender, this pollo alla diavolo is smothered in a spicy sauce that makes it impossible to stop picking at it, even for someone who has never been a huge fan of chicken. Up next was the Lamb Volcano, another show stopper. Smoking rosemary, perched atop an ashen volcano, all of it completely edible and just as aesthetically pleasing, provided unnecessary gimmick to a lamb dish that stood apart all on its own. Succulent and tender, I found myself gnawing the tiniest bit of meat left on the bone.

But wait….there’s more! Dessert was a truffle cheesecake, decadent and rich and impossible to resist, even when I thought I could not take another bite. As averse to using truffle oil as most of the guests at this dinner, Chef infused the cream cheese topper with tiny specks of black truffles. It was an unreal way to end an unreal evening, and put this cozy, spectacular restaurant high in my list of places to return.

Twisted Talk: Have you dined at Mulino a Vino? What is your favorite dish and/or wine? Discuss below!

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