Restaurant & Wine Review: Il Mulino in NYC

by Robert Millman

Il Mulino

37 East 60th Street

New York City

10065 New York

Tel.+1 212-750-3270

Years ago and I do mean years ago, the original IL Mulino on west 3rd street in Greenwich Village was one of the best and most expensive Italian restaurants in New York. Patrons entered to the ineffable aroma of garlic that has been cooking, like a stock in French restaurants, for a long time, perpetually renewed. This essence of southern Italian cooking was a most welcome smell for aficionados of such cuisine. There were multiple pre-meal plates of food—the Italian version I suppose of the French amusebouche but in rather larger portions. You practically dined before you dined. All service portions were copious. By today’s standards the food was conventional yet extremely tasty and made from what were then first-rate ingredients.

All of this is a prelude to my experience at one of the current Il Mulino outposts in Manhattan—this one on East 60th street. In an attack of nostalgia—which I admit occurs to people over a certain age such as myself- I decided that my friend Suzanne and I needed to eat some old fashioned Italian food. The reader has likely concluded that it was a decision I now regret although the afternoon was not without its amusing aspects. One sign of the decline that has befallen at least this specific outpost of Il Mulino became is that the greeter—it once used to be a distinguished maitre’d in tuxedo of course– was dressed in a winter vest and was as friendly as a dog. By contrast to that inauspicious beginning, the tables in the restaurant dining room are well spaced. All the many photographs on the wall are of celebrities from the 1950s and 1960s. Sometimes, like my desire to eat good old fashioned hearty Italian food with my friend, an ambiance harkening back to days past is really what the doctor ordered. But sometimes, it can all be too much of a good thing. Time tries to stand still at such places. Could this possibly be 2024 not 1964? The service and the food answered that question.

This time too, there were pre-meal hors d’oeuvres: a plate of mediocre caponata (a dish which can be utterly delicious when done properly), chopped tomatoes in olive oil, and chunks of medium-quality Parmesan. On to the main events. We both ordered the mozzarella caprese and the vitello Marsala. The Mozzarella was a B- and the tomatoes—well what can one expect? San Marzanos? That would be nice of course, not that you absolutely have to have those, but the tomatoes soerved us were not very flavourful, unfortunately. Even more sadly, the veal took the meal to a new low. Aside from the Marsala being all but undetectable, the veal was dark, tough and not so easy to chew. The portion was as large, but I’m not sure that ws necessarily a plus, given how not much fun it was to eat. Fit for prisoners of war? But I exaggerate. I had no better luck with my dessert: a Tiramisu that was way too sweet and somehow tasteless at the same time.

The restaurant was half full or half-empty depending on your perspective. The atmosphere in the dining room was not especially joyous or vibrant and the wait staff gave the impression of going through the motions. Maybe I am just going through a curmudgeonly phase and tend to be overly-critical, but I was disappointed by this specific dining experience. I have no one to blame for the decision to try to go back to the past; sometimes our past is really best left alone in its gilded memories and trying to relive it is more often than not a fool’s errand. But in a rating scale that runs from life-threatening to Micheline 3 stars-level, I really cannot say I’d recommend this Il Mulino branch.

Robert Millman

Robert Millman’s wine career began in the early 1980s, when he began working from Morrell & Company, one of the USA’s top wine retailers. During that time, he co-founded Executive Wine Seminars (EWS) with Howard Kaplan, which over the years became one of NYC’s most highly regarded wine events companies. EWS organized and conducted over 1000 wine events during its prestigious thirty-three year history. High points included Robert Parker being a regular guest presenter at the tastings, and through 2011, the results of the tastings were published on the Wine Advocate website. Having reached an age where taking a step back from the wear and tear of life in the wine fast lane made sense, Millman currently enjoys being a taster and wine writer for Grapes the Wine Company, an excellent, leading e-retailer based in Westchester (NY). 

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Robert Millman