Team Torrisi is coasting with this breezy Italian concept
The adage “Rome wasn’t built in a day” has soothed the worried brows of empire builders for centuries—but not the crew behind Major Food Group. Patience might’ve worked for those Romans, but in its breathless, rapid-fire expansion—eight restaurants in six years—the Italian-American food juggernaut has tapped more readily into Yankee restlessness than Old World restraint.
Since debuting Torrisi Italian Specialties in ’09, Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick have gone from relative unknowns to restaurant moguls—in 2015 alone, they’ll launch a bagel-focused appetizing store, a 15-seat fine-dining restaurant and three outposts of their high-end hero spot Parm.
Which brings us to the latest entry in the trio’s ever-growing domain—Santina, a glass-enclosed jewel box of a restaurant tucked neatly beneath the High Line. Though billed as “coastal Italian”—the place is named for Carbone’s Sicilian grandmother—the vibrant set-piece room reads more South Beach than southern Italy. Beneath candy-colored glass chandeliers, waiters bustle around the Renzo Piano–designed cube kitted in pastel polos and white Rod Laver kicks, weaving between potted palm trees to deliver painted ceramic plates of house-cured anchovies and porcelain pineapples brimming with tropical cocktails, as salsa horns blare overhead.
But Carbone by way of Cuba this isn’t. Compared to that restaurant’s belt-busting, red-sauce gusto, Santina is an altogether lighter affair, its sparse menu dominated by fish and produce. Bread service, a trope of Italian-American eating, is replaced by cecina ($12), thin chickpea crêpes served with a choice of filling—shaved funghi, herb-licked gamberetti—the best and boldest of which is a tuna tartare charged with capers and Calabrian chile.
That buoyant revamping continues across the menu—carpaccio ($9) trades beef for weightless, sunset-orange petals of squash, dotted with pumpkin seeds, honey agrodolce and crème fraîche, and Japanese short-grain rice frequently takes the place of pasta. The guanciale e pepe rice ($17) could be served at a spa—it’s so delicate—but those looking for the salty smack of Italian pork will leave disappointed, overwhelmed instead with cracked black pepper.
The house specialty, the surf-and-turf Chitarra Santina ($17), boasts lovely egg-yolk strands tangled around plump mussels and merguez sausage, but the spare tossing of olive oil and garlic is so minimal, it barely registers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the bass agrigento ($24) drowns that supple fish in its peperonata-orange ragù.
It’s refreshing to see Carbone, Torrisi and Zalaznick lighten up, sure, but they’re food-world heavy hitters now. We expect more heft.
820 Washington St
|Cross street:||between Gansevoort and Little West 12th Sts|
|Opening hours:||Daily 7am–midnight|
|Transport:||Subway: A, C, E to 14th St; L to Eighth Ave|
|Price:||Average entrée: $24. AmEx, MC, V.|
|Do you own this business?|
Average User Rating
4 / 5
- 5 star:2
- 4 star:2
- 3 star:2
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:0
This place beckons me back to my summer spent along the Amalfi coast. Scrumptious bites served on colorful hand painted porcelain plates. Located right next to the High Line, this restaurant makes for a perfect date location. Invite your special someone for a stroll along the High Line and wow them after with a delicious meal at Santina which is sure to impress. My best advice for this place in two words: CHICKPEA PANCAKES
Amazing. Food was stellar. I am giving four stars.. Because the desserts were sub-par. The service, decor - excellent. Will definitely be back. Recommend pretty much everything - swordfish was delicious. All pastas were tasty too- blue crab spaghetti was only alright. Place was completely packed, recommend getting a reservation very far in advance.
Eating at Santina Christmas Eve left me wanting more, and not in a good way. While the menu was good, (our favorite dish was the Linguini Jalepeño out of four plates we ordered) we left hungry. The squash carpaccio was certainly tasty, but I'd assume anything doused in honey would be. Overall, I expected more from Team Torrisi.
Went for a boozy lunch here - don't get caught out, the cocktails are strong - even by New York standards! Awesome. A really light, airy space, houses a nice mixture of the city dwellers. The food was incredible - best to just order tapas style and share as the entire menu is epic.