We return to Il Mulino after a long hiatus

We haven’t been to Il Mulino in quite a while (we think it’s been about 3 years). Why? Well, our first three visits, not long after the location reopened as Il Mulino were all pretty disastrous. One visit with just us went poorly… the service wasn’t good and the food was only moderately good. The second visit, we went with Lisa and Andy, hoping that the first subpar experience was just a fluke (they had been without us and had a good experience)… It was better than our first trip but nothing really amazing. The four of us tried again… That time was even worse, so we swore off of it. Now, Kate and Calvin will probably joke that it’s just us (Nora and Nick)… We’re jinxes when it comes to going out to dinner. Anyway, we hadn’t been back in a long time.

So, why did we decide to go back? Two main reasons:

  • Two assistant managers we’ve gotten to know at bluezoo, Angela (assistant manager) & Layfayette (floating assistant manager), have moved to Il Mulino and we were pretty sure that the service experience would be much improved
  • During the Food & Wine Classic 2013, we attended Chef Cib’s Pasta Making Class and met Chef Tyler (he was at Il Mulino at that time)… Between those two chefs, we felt confident that the food would be improved too

How did it go? In a word, Il Mulino is definitely worth a visit… Although we found out that Chef Tyler had very recently left and we chose Friday night during Marathon Weekend (re Pasta Specials for carb loaders) to go.

We were seated in the long hall to the right, near enough to the kitchens to get some of the bustle but not right on top of the kitchen and back of house. Our servers were Rosa and Zach… We began with the complimentary bread service, eggplant, and pork sausage.

The meal begins with bread, eggplant, and slices of sausage

The meal begins with bread, eggplant, and slices of sausage

Breads: the spicy focaccia was very soft and flavorful with just a hint of spice, it’s very similar to the onion bread at bluezoo in terms of texture and saltiness (Angela told us later that we were correct, it’s the same bread with a variation), the ciabatta is exactly the same as at bluezoo and was very good at sopping up juices during our dinner.

Eggplant: very smooth and even buttery, nick was a bit surprised by how much he liked it and I couldn’t seem to stop myself from having just one more bite (and one more and one more)

Sausage: it was caccatorini, rather piggy and nick said it reminded him of lardon on a charcuterie plate… Good but a little goes a long way

We also had a cocktail each (sorry the photo is blurry)… I ordered the Skinny Girl Gimlet and Nick had the Witt’s End (a beer cocktail).

Skinny Girl Gimlet and Witt's End

Skinny Girl Gimlet and Witt’s End

Skinny Girl Gimlet – vodka, lime, house made cucumber simple syrup

Witt’s End -Wittebeer, Jack Daniels Honey, peaches de vigne

While both of these cocktails were very good, we agreed that the Skinny Girl Gimlet was delicious. Light and refreshing, I want another just thinking about it.

During the bread course, we kept looking at the menus and discussing what we wanted for our first course, our pasta course, and our main course. Before you think we’ve lost our ever lovin’ minds… we knew that we were going to split each course… so we were thinking that we could go a little crazy and try numerous items.

We both love mussels, so we chose Antipasti Di Mare Cozze Fra Diavolo (mussels in spicy tomato broth). These were served steaming hot, the aroma and steam were intense and absolutely wonderful. We could smell the spice, we could see slivers of sweet garlic and flakes of crushed red pepper, and the fresh basil chiffonade on top assaulted (in a good way) both eyes and nose. I counted 21 or 22 mussels in this dish (OMG this is a main course for us!). These mussels were just simply great, it’s going to be difficult to NOT order them every time we come back to Il Mulino.

Mussels Fra Diavolo

Mussels Fra Diavolo

These were so good. There was abundant garlic lovingly sautéed, slightly crunchy and very tasty. I asked for more bread because there was no way we were leaving that spicy Fra Diavolo in the dish. Hopefully, I didn’t embarrass Nick … I was slurping the mussel shells.

close up of Fra Diavolo sauce, look at the thinly sliced garlic and the crushed red pepper… YUM

close up of Fra Diavolo sauce, look at the thinly sliced garlic and the crushed red pepper… YUM

At this point, we’re thinking that either the food has really been kicked up a LOT or we were supreme idiots with our ordering in the past… My bets are that the food has improved that much 🙂

We had planned to split a half order of pasta – Rosa had told us that half orders of pasta were possible (we didn’t know that before). We thought we’d get the Spaghetti ai Frutti Di Mare…yes, there’s a seafood thing going on here. When we were at University, Nick finishing up his BS and me working on my MS, we used to go to a little Italian restaurant very frequently, so often in fact that we got to know the family that owned/ran it… The Guarino’s – Gerri, Nick, and Nickie. One of my favorite items on their menu was Sugo Di Mare – mussels in white wine and garlic sauce served in spinach linguine… I was tempted by the prospect of comparing an old beloved memory with something new.

HOWEVER… The Cozze Fra Diavolo was much larger and more filling than expected. The pasta was going to have to wait for another night.

So, we moved on to the main course… Saltimbocca (veal scallopini with prosciutto, served with spinach, sage and Marsala sauce) and a side of the Escarole & Kalamata olives. We followed our instincts and asked Rosa to pick two glasses of wine to go with our main course – she asked if we had any preferences and we said “not really, but if you can suggest a red and a white that would be nice.”

Il Mulino 10JAN13 - 15


The sauce on the Saltimbocca reminded us both of french onion soup, it had the same beefy/oniony quality. We know that it was a marsala sauce (maybe we just like french onion soup and aren’t big fans of marsala sauce). The veal wasn’t very moist on the edges (in other words, it was a bit dry). The prosciutto and the sage were only evident in the very center part of each veal scallop. Overall, this isn’t really something we’re likely to order again. But we’d never had Saltimbocca before, so it was a new experience.

Escarole and Black Olives

Escarole and Black Olives

We both liked the saltiness of the black olives in the escarole side dish. I really liked the slivers of pickled cherry peppers. Ordering a vegetable side and splitting it is a good option for us.

What about the wines?

The red wine was Zenato Ripasso, made of three grapes, from the Veneto region. This wine had a nice rich color. I thought the flavors without food were fruity first and then the tannins hit the back of my tongue. Nick thought that it was bitter on the sides of his tongue and that it was clearly a dry wine. We both thought that the red wine went very well with the veal, Nick being more positive on red with veal while I leaned a bit towards the red with the escarole and olives

The white wine was Guado al Tasso from Tuscany; a nice straw color (although truthfully, it can be a bit difficult to tell what a wine looks like in most restaurants!). My first taste, I thought it rich and buttery and I tasted rocks (mineral). Nick thought it was a pretty heavy white, lots of mineral, and nothing off-putting. Nick really preferred the white with the vegetable side and I preferred it over the red.

So, what did we think?

Well, we think that the food and service were very good. We think we’re going to put Il Mulino into our regular dining out plans. We need to get back there with Lisa and Andy to see if the improvements hold up – maybe in May?


UPDATE: Lisa has commented on Twitter (don’t know why they aren’t showing up here, they used to!) “works for me in May. but the prior visits were so dismal. we are willing to try again.” — so looks like another visit to Il Mulino is in the cards (and of course, a visit to bluezoo during Lisa & Andy’s May visit :))

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.