The Morello Italian Bistro is located at 253 Greenwich Avenue in the middle of Greenwich, Connecticut, and resides in a two-story historical landmark building. The façade has large doors that can be opened during those gorgeous days and nights so diners can enjoy the lively and energetic street life present of Greenwich Avenue.
When you walk into Morello Italian Bristo, the first thing that catches your eye is the beautiful architecture – brick and stone columns, arches and a dome ceiling that are the focal point of the restaurant. The stunning interior was the architectural creation of Rafael Guastavino, Jr. From the outside you would never know about the amazing architecture this restaurant has on the inside and just how large it really is.
The cuisine offered by Chef Kevin Garcia is rustic Italian with a modern twist “cuisine inspired by regional simplicity and seasonality.” The inspiration for Chef Garcia comes from his favorite regions in Italy: Rome, Tuscany, and Sicily. He uses local ingredients as much as possible and when available, thus the menu changes often.
Morello is owned by The Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation (MARC), based in London, England. Their “focus is on provenance and making exceptional quality accessible, and is supported by the hallmark superior service, highly-acclaimed wine program and stylish décor.” In addition to Morello, MARC owns the: New York’s A Voce restaurants, Bistro du Midi in Boston, the Michelin-starred London restaurants Umu and The Greenhouse, and an exclusive private members club, Morton’s on Berkeley Square in Mayfair.
We were invited to a menu tasting at Morello.
After a pleasant chat with both General Manager Jimmy Branigan, Jr. and Chef Kevin, we were lead to our table on the second floor “loft” dining area, where we commenced our evening of sampling with some of their signature cocktails. We started with the Grilled Pineapple Mojito and the Torino Negrone.
The Grilled Pineapple Mojito is a well balanced blend of Captain Morgan Spiced rum, muddled mint, grilled pineapple, lime wedges, and agave nectar. The grilling of the pineapple brings out the natural sweetness of the fruit that marries well with the spiced rum and mint. The lime wedge gave a little tartness to the drink.
The Torino Negrone combines Beefeater gin, Aperol, Punt e Mes, and is finished with a bit of prosecco. The Aperol added a combination of citrus and floral taste which was leveled out nicely by the Punt e Mes.
As we were sipping our cocktails, Jimmy explained their process for creating and perfecting their cocktails. Each and every suggestion for a cocktail goes through an evaluation by several of the restaurants team before it is put on the menu. Later in our sampling, we were treated to a Margarita in Fuoco and a Fragola.
Chef Kevin satisfied our culinary taste buds with several samplings of their menu. For Antipasti we had the Hamachi Crudo. Sashimi style sliced yellow tail tuna drizzled with chili extra-virgin olive oil then topped with pickled pear and lemon zest and finished off with a sparkle of sea salt. This beautifully prepared tuna was amazing. The tuna was mild in flavor but was not overpowered by the accompanying ingredients. Each ingredient worked in harmony with the others.
We then tried Prosciutto & Parmesan Fritters from the Per la Tavola menu. A simple tasty golden brown ball of prosciutto and parmesan sparkled with fontina cheese and parsley.
Moving on to the Pasta e Risotto portion, the Squid Ink Tagliatelle with Lobster was offered. Inter-mixed with the tagliatelle was chucks of well prepared lobster and tomatoes with slithers of fresh basil in a light sauce of white wine, garlic, shallots, and chili. The squid ink brought a slight briny, oceany flavor mixed with a subtle murkiness / earthiness flavor.
Least I forget, John Freitas, the head wine sommelier at Morello, paired several of our samplings with the appropriate wine. Each pairing worked exceptional well with the sampling, enhancing the flavor of the dish. We also learned a bit about pairing wine with certain dishes.
We were treated to three dishes from the Secondi area of their menu. Starting with Roasted Scallops and Caramelized Cauliflower with capers, caper berries, sultanas, and pancetta. The scallops were pan seared to a beautiful golden brown while leaving a tender and juicy inside. The caramelizing of the cauliflower brought out the natural sugars of it that was offset by the saltiness of the capers and bits of pancetta. The sultanas added additional sweetness and texture difference to the dish.
The two other Secondis were of my favorite meats: duck and lamb, which if not cooked properly can be disastrous. Before, I go on, I will state that both were cooked absolutely to perfection from a culinary perspective.
The Colorado Lamb Chops (not pictured) came with two chickpea fries, sweet olive sauce, and salsa verde. These incredible chops were, by far, the best prepared I have eaten in a while. They had a slight pepper coating on the seared outside surrounding a medium rare inside that melted in my mouth. Wendy, who is not typically of consumer of lamb due to sometimes strong lamb flavor, even liked these. One knew these were lamb chops, but the lamb flavor was mild. The chickpea fries were quite good.
The Hudson Valley Magret Duck Beast came with fresh whole gooseberries, pistachios, red watercress, and a cherry sauce. The skin of the beast was super crispy while the meat itself was cooked to juicy medium rare inside. The cherry sauce had a nice, slightly sweet tartness that coupled well with the duck. The pistachios added a little salt flavor, as well as crunch to the dish, whereas, the red watercress gave a hint of pepper. The fresh gooseberries added another accent to the dish. Wendy usually is not a fan of duck, but she stated that it was “fantastic” and I had to quickly fork a couple slices before she consumed it all.
For dessert we were treated to Bomboloni – fresh doughnuts filled with an orange-vanilla cream and served with a chocolate dipping sauce. The doughnuts were light and airy. The cream had a tart citrus flavor that would have made the doughnuts even better if it had the consistency of a mousse. The chocolate dipping sauce was so chocolaty that some unnamed individual was eating with a spoon.
The exquisite dishes we sampled at Morello were well presented with each having different depths of flavor. The warm and friendly atmosphere coupled with the delicious food made a memorable evening.
Morello is open Monday through Friday 12pm to 4pm for lunch; Monday to Thursday 4pm to 9:30pm, Friday and Saturday 4pm to 10:30pm, Sunday 4pm to 9pm for dinner; and brunch is served Saturday 12pm to 4pm and Sunday 11:30am to 4pm.