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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Peachy Picks Il Cortile Our Coverage Sponsored by Fresh Origins

Owner Salvatore Esposito

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Today marks the beginning of spring, and it is immediately springtime when you walk into the gorgeous restaurant at 125 Mulberry named Il Cortile, which is Italian for courtyard.  An oasis in the city that never sleeps, Il Cortile is older than Peachy Deegan herself and has been a staple of New York's Little Italy since 1975.  
Il Cortile was first featured in Tasty Tidbits:
And we are pleased to announce it has joined the ranks of Peachy's Picks.
Just look at that beautiful courty
ard!  All of us in Manhattan want one, but since this is not our backyard, we can go to Il Cortile.  Sal will share his backyard with you and you will love it!
You can tell as soon as you enter that their commitment to ambiance and artistic inclinations is high.  
In Peachy's opinion, wine doesn't get any better than a strong Italian red and we were pleased to delight in the pleasure of the Rosso di Montalcini 2011 for the duration of our Il Cortile experience.
The menu at Il Cortile is simply stellar, and if you get there early enough you will be able to see what you order in daylight through the incredible glass roof unique to Il Cortile.  It is also beautiful to see the sunset through and the stars against the night sky.
You know we've been to many, many Italian venues by now, so Peachy Deegan tends to go towards menu items she's never had before if she can find them.  Il Cortile did not disappoint her and she can honestly say she's never had the Antipasti Caldo "Cortile" before: a plating of warm baked eggplant was absolutely delicious keeping company with stuffed peppers, scallops, shrimps and clams.  A unique seafood and vegetable masterpiece!
Another dish we found to be specific to Il Cortile is Pepite di Gnocchi: potato dough stuffed with chicken, spinach and mascarpone which is a heavenly concoction indeed!  Creamy bites of this glorious dish are an ideal choice for your pasta course.  The mascarpone is a delicacy that should be included in more pasta courses!   And with the angelic spinach included we felt good about getting a vegetable in.
There are many entrees you could choose at Il Cortile and probably be bowled over with as their menu is quite comprehensive with superlative choices.  Remember, not everyone has been in business in Manhattan for 38 years.  Our little (or maybe not so little after all of these dinner reviews) seafood enthusiast could not overlook the Dal Mare In Terra Cotta section of the menu which was eternally convincing.  In particular, the Gamberi Fantasia shouted out our name most melodically.  The jumbo shrimp stuffed with spinach, pignoli, mozzarella and wrapped in prosciutto and white wine sauce was just divine.
Blueberry zabaglione was the perfect refreshment at the end, joined by a lovely Cappuccino!
We next were led on a tour of the gorgeous premises-the L shape contains more seats, nooks and crannies than one might imagine when enveloped in our favorite part, the courtyard.  Sal's personality really is this sparkling:
He should be proud of such an institution dedicated to the Italian culinary arts as Il Cortile!  Sal has been a partner since 1986, and his uncle and partner Carmine Esposito kicked off this winner in 1975.  One brick wall is even imported from Rome...the restaurant is much bigger than you'd guess upon entering and it seats 400 plus 100 in the cocktail lounge over an area of three buildings.  
If you are impressed by big names, know that Andy Warhol also reviewed Il Cortile.
Know that when you are killed off on the Sopranos, this is where you go to celebrate and you even are memorialized on the wall.
Also know that there are all kinds of awards everywhere.  The best reward for you however will be in your stomach, and meeting the incomparable Sal.  
We also noted that Il Cortile boasts quite fine greenery, as it should being a courtyard!
Our esteemed panelist adds:
I hadn’t been to Little Italy in several years, so I was looking forward to our visit to this long-standing restaurant. There is no shortage of restaurant choices, but Il Cortile demonstrated that it is on the “must taste” list of the many places in this iconic neighborhood.  
I appreciated the way the tables were nicely spaced in the “courtyard” section of the restaurant where we were seated. We were not shouting over two or three other tables in our immediate vicinity to make conversation. The extra high glass ceiling in this atrium added to the airy and spacious feel.
Our host and owner, Salvatore, made us feel most welcome as prepared for our dining experience.
I decided to begin with the “Seafood Salad with Garlic, Lemon & Olive Oil”, since the freshness of the seafood is always a good barometer of things to come. It did not disappoint. The blend of shrimp, scungilli, calamari, and scallops was sitting atop some radicchio and bathed in a tasty dressing as advertised (I did choose to add more lemon with the additional wedges which were provided on the plate). Just for good measure, there were 4 endive “spokes” radiating from the center - each holding a green and black olive. It was a wonderful start to the evening.
My choice for the pasta plate was called “Fettuccine di Parma” described on the menu as “homemade noodles with sweet sausage, wild mushrooms, parmigiano, garlic, shallots and olive oil”. Needless to say the quality a homemade pasta is an important litmus test for any fine Italian restaurant. I chose this because it appeared it would be served without a red sauce, allowing for a embellished “aglio e olio” effect – one of my favorites. When the pasta arrived in a light red sauce, I was a little disappointed at first. But disappointment was quickly transformed to delight when I took my first bite. It was a truly fabulous pasta creation. I do think, however, that the inclusion of the “red sauce” detail on the description would be a good idea - just for clarity.
Choosing a main course was not an easy task with so many worthy contenders. Perhaps because I already had consumed enough food to qualify for a scene in Caligula, I opted for a lighter entrée and went with a piece of fish. The grilled swordfish with garlic, rosemary, white wine, lemon and red pepper sounded like it would fit the bill perfectly. It was perfect - moist, delicate, with just the right amount of firmness. My only issue would be that it arrived on the plate all by its lonesome. I noticed afterwards that the menu clearly states “Please ask your waiter for our vegetable and potato specials”, but I overlooked that detail. A swordfish steak dinner is enhanced by the alternating flavors of the seafood and side dishes, and I did miss that aspect of the dining experience.
The evening was wrapped up with a cup of raspberries with zabaglione sauce, and a nice hot cappuccino.  
All in all, this is a perfect venue for either a nice quiet evening out with friends or your significant other. The atmosphere is equally suited to a business meeting. I look forward to my next visit.
Peachy Picks Il Cortile!
Il Cortile is Recommended by Whom You Know.

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