Ristorante Morini
 
 

Classic UES Italian that works for brunch and lunch, too

By David Farley

If you’re not a lifelong Upper East Sider or a lady who lunches, or you don’t happen to have a penthouse on the park, stepping into Ristorante Morini—or any other handsome-looking restaurant in the neighborhood—might give you pause, since this is a part of town whose eateries rarely land on the “cheap eats” list.

But have no fear: This plush two-floor Italian spot, where lauded chef Michael White is at the helm, won’t bust your budget, particularly at lunch and brunch. In fact, Morini makes it easy on the Upper East Side pocketbook by offering two prix-fixe three-course lunch specials: salad, pasta, and gelato for $32, or appetizer, entree, and dessert for $40 (and a similar offer at brunch).

Start off with a plate of ultra-creamy burrata, finished with strawberry bruschetta, for a seasonal pop and a textural crunch. Or opt for the spaghetti with clams, which comes “red,” with tomato sauce, or “white” in a garlicky white wine sauce. Choose the latter and your palate will be rewarded with silky strands of egg-laden spaghetti curled around flavor-popping morsels of clams and garlic. For entrées, don’t overlook the grilled sea bass, hovering atop a sea of wild rice and tangy pesto.
Michael White may be known as a pasta pro, but he doesn’t get enough credit for being a big league burger master, too. The White Label Burger, also on the menu at his Fifth Avenue spot Ai Fiori, is one of the great unsung burgers in the Big Apple. The Pat LaFrieda custom blend consists of brisket, short rib, aged rib eye, and chuck, all topped with fontina cheese and bacon.

For dessert, the bomboloni, Italian sugar doughnuts, are so light and airy you might as well expect them to float right into your mouth. And when all is said and done (and eaten), you’ll saunter out of Ristorante Morini having scored a pretty nice deal for a lady (or gentleman) who lunches (or brunches).

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hours

Dinner: Mon–Sat 5:30 PM–10 PM; Sun 5:30 PM–9:30 PM
Lunch: Mon–Fri noon–2:30 PM
Brunch: Sat–Sun 11:30 AM–2:30 PM

price range

$17 (kale salad) to $29 (grilled sea bass)
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