First Impressions: Il Mulino

Before going to Manhatta, I obsessed over the menu—not the dishes so much as the three courses for $78, including tip, and why the Union Square Hospitality Group would benefit from such a move. (It’s something I addressed in the post about the restaurant.) My husband, Adam, thought that I was griping about the cost. “Who cares, as long as it’s good?” he kept asking, which was a fair point. And Manhatta was terrific.

Before visiting Il Mulino‘s new outpost on Greenwich Street, technically part of the Il Mulino New York sub-brand, I once again fixated on the menu. I was prepared for it to be expensive, but $14 for a dish of olives? $26 for a Caprese salad? $36 for cacio e pepe risotto? $42 for chicken parmigiana? $48 for grilled salmon? $65 for branzino? Adam was aghast at the prices, too, so I gently lobbed his words back at him: “Who cares, as long as it’s good?”

There’s a flip side to that question, however: If the food is not good, the disappointment gets compounded by the expense.

The room, which you may recall from either Tablao or, before that, Flor de Sol, has never looked better. It’s narrow and long, with high ceilings. A 20-seat bar runs along the south side, with tables scattered throughout the rest of the space. Whoever designed it kept things simple: white walls, black ceiling, attractive pendant lights by the entrance, a huge mirror, and a bunch of black-and-white photos. I wouldn’t call it comfortable—tables are too close, and noise mitigation would help—but if prices were half as high, it would do.

Upon sitting down, we faced a barrage of staffers in the first five minutes: Did we want water? Or bread? Or bruschetta? Did we want these fried zucchini chips? Did we want any of this wheel of Grana Padano? Did we want to order a drink? Did we want to know the specials? At one point, there were four staffers at our table. The menu is not rich with description, so I asked what else, if anything, is in the salad listed as “Endive.”

Server: Oranges, I think.
Me: [Waiting.]
Server: And endive.
Me: I figured that.
Server: [Waiting.]
Me: [Waiting.]
Server: I can check.
Me: Yes.

Adam’s theory is that this is why the captain exists, as evidenced by the dedicated tip line on the receipt: The servers are eager but not particularly adept, so the captain is there to play safety, hustling between tables to take care of anything important. (The endive salad has some tomato, but no orange. We decided to order the Caesar instead, but they brought the endive.) While the service wasn’t up to the level of the prices, it wasn’t the problem.

That would be the food. Splitting everything, we ordered the clams oreganata ($19.50), spinach salad ($16), Caesar salad ($16), the whole branzino ($65), and sides of broccoli rabe ($15) and fries ($15). Even though they were a tad gritty, the clams were the high point. The bacon in the spinach salad was barely cooked; the Caesar had tired lettuce and too much dressing. The branzino was baked in a salt crust—then displayed at the table, naturally, and filleted elsewhere in the dining room—but far too much of the salt made it onto our plates. The broccoli rabe was overcooked and stringy, and the fries were abominable. Sodden with oil, they were possibly the worst fries I have ever been served. No one asked why we barely touched them.

It could be argued that reviewing a restaurant after only two weeks is unfair. Again, however, the cost comes into consideration. At this price point, I think there’s a reasonable expectation that a restaurant is nailing it from day one, or it’s not officially open. And if you’re not sure everything is right, then you charge less—like Manhatta did.

Il Mulino New York is at 361 Greenwich (between Franklin and Harrison); 646-649-5164;

Recent New Kid on the Block / First Impressions articles:
Paul Ruggeri Gymnastics
Holy Ground
Interlude Coffee & Tea
A Summer Day Café



  1. The prices are obscene, and then to add insult to injury, apparently the food mediocre.

    This is why we no longer dine out in TriBeCa (with a few notable exceptions for special occasions that break those norms). I miss the East Village for food options, many places with a wide variety of cuisines, with excellent food and fair prices….and friendly service.

    I would recommend: vote with your wallets (and appetites).

    For dining out, it should not be too much to ask; excellent food, reasonable prices, polite service (assuming the customer is reasonable and polite, that is, of course).

    Failing those criteria, we’ll happily cook at home instead.

  2. Il Mulino Prime over on W Broadway is one of our favorite spots. The prices are what they are – you know what the deal is going in. But the food is excellent & the service superb. Hopefully this place gets the food and service up to par because I think it’s potentially a great addition to the neighborhood.

    Given the rents being charged, it shouldn’t be a shock to anyone anymore that the trend is going to be higher end, higher priced restaurants. If you want the more diverse culinary experiences and more reasonable prices, Brooklyn (where we live now) are your best bets. That ship sailed in Tribeca a long time ago.

    • The other strategy for restaurants to deal with high fixed expenses is to reduce labor costs by using a quick serve fine food model, i.e., high end food and drink but cafeteria style self service.

  3. I totally agree about the quality of food in relation to the high prices. Is the chicken parm worth double what the excellent chicken parm is at Gigino? (or any of the regular italian places we’ve been going to for years)..the brandino worth paying twice for the excellent fish we get at Thalassa? Yes, the room is lovely….but.
    My husband even commented that our dinner at Carbone (a few nights after trying il Mulino) was not as pricey.

  4. Walked by today and was floored by the prices for pasta. It’s really out of control. I’ll stick to Grand Morsi which may be on the expensive side, but consistently good with lovely waitstaff. Terra is another good and well priced option that I’ll continue to enjoy.

    Unrelated, is anyone else disappointed with Walkers new chef?

  5. I am truly baffled why anyone in their right mind would go to Il Mulino, unless dining on a corporate tab; duping an unsuspecting companion on a first date; or attributing no value to money (a la at a strip club). The owner of Il Mulino, however, is obviously a genius. Another Il Mulino exists 6 blocks away. Why not wantonly reap profits from two “I-live-close-to-Taylor Swift” neighborhoods for a few years? Nauseating addition to an increasingly nauseating place to live. #bringsouthsback

  6. Much of my life is spent in Japan, where the perspective on food is entirely different, so I try to avoid direct comparison. That said, the presentation here is a flat-out disgrace. In all sincerity, it depresses me to look at those images, and it’s not a comment on your photography at all.

    • In fact, this is a good time to say I follow your Insta, and I love your photography.

      • Why, thank you. Food photography is an art, and (but?) there’s a reason professionals don’t shoot in the restaurant’s actual light. That said, I would be absolutely fine with a simple/rustic presentation (such as at I Sodi) if the food was good. This food was bad at any price.

  7. I am a native New Yorker living in the Village and working in Tribeca.
    It is very hard to duplicate something that is simply the best.
    Il Mulino on West 3rd Street is the original and I have observed over the years they have opened other locations but none equals the original, and here’s why-
    Full disclosure- I’m vegetarian, but have brought many pescatarian and carnivore friends over the years-
    At West 3rd you can order any Italian dish. The menu means nothing. For example, I order the Eggplant Parmesan- yes it’s $36 but it is simply the best available.
    They are the only restaurant I have ever been to that after reading all the specials the waiter says “plus whatever else you would like to have”.
    Admittedly I haven’t tried Greenwich yet, but I called and they said “right now we are only serving what’s on the menu”
    So “stay tuned” we shall see.
    Duplicating the best is not so easy.

  8. We ate at the bar and I thought the pastas we had were great. I agree, though, the prices are out of control.

  9. Went the other night for the first time and the service and the food were way below expectations…huge disappointment. Article is spot on – waiters were clueless, place was a sauna and food was not good…even at half the price I wouldn’t go back.

  10. the wanna be crowd will unfortunately keep this place alive despite the food and service being so under par. the bartender had a nice personality, only redeeming feature. In short its a ripoff that sucks, and sucks bad.

  11. Earlier this year, Il Mulino Prime on West Broadway provided us with one of the most disappointing dining experiences at 2x what we normally spend on dinner (and we enjoy indulging). The food was barely edible and the service was horrendous. The only thing worse were their wine pours. We are generally understanding if things come up, but this bordered offensive.

    That said we were not overly excited to hear that Greenwich was opening even though it was around the corner. The prices and reviews above further support that we won’t be taking a chance on it. Seems like they need to stick with the original on W3.

  12. Locanda Verde and Gigino have nothing to worry about! I suspect some will dine at Il Mulino just to try it out but my guess is most of them will not return.

  13. Man, do I still miss Roc!

  14. Anyone can make a Caprese salad in less than five minutes. Eat at home.

  15. The space looks so lovely…from the outside!

  16. Reliable, reasonable standbys for many years: Gigino’s, Salaam Bombay, Takahashi, Tataki, Tataki Bakery, The Greek, VCafe, Grand Banks, The Odeon, Edward’s, Walker’s, Tribeca Grill(!), many more. Pricier? Tetsu, Little Park, Locanda Verde, the extraordinary Bâtard. Do I miss Howsbayou, Riverrun, Mangez Avec Moi, Franklin Furnace, Artists Space, Art on the Beach? Of course.