On Mulberry street in Little Italy, there are countless Italian restaurants. Which one to go to? Which one to choose? Sign after sign of Italian menus beckon pedestrians to come in and mangia. A few nights ago, my boyfriend and I decided to go to Il Cortile. As soon as we walked up to the entrance, a server brought us to a tiny nook outside where we could sit. Finally! It was nice enough to sit outside! When we sat down, we were brought our menus and a huge basket of bread. The bread basket was impressive for a few reasons. First of all there were about 6 different kinds of bread: focaccia, bread sticks, crispy sesame rods, and sliced baguette and more! Furthermore, there was enough bread there to feed a small army. My one complaint is that while the bread tasted fresh, it wasn’t warm. Perhaps this is a bit picky of me, but I think if you’re going to go all out on the bread basket, it might as well be steaming hot. Also, we’re in Little Italy right? Rachel Ray would definitely request some EVOO. I would as well.
The menu was gigantic…literally. It unfolded to the size of the table. Don’t bother unfolding more than one. Cozy up to your partner and read together. Sharing is caring. All of the dishes that are offered at Il Cortile are very traditional. We started with a caprese salad ($12). The tomatoes were crisp and fresh and the mozzarella was sliced thick and just melted in my mouth. That combination layered with sweet basil was just lovely. The three stacks of tomato, mozzarella and basil were generously drizzled with olive oil, creating a perfect starter for our meal. There is also a huge selection of Antipasti. Perhaps try the Bruschetta Con Fave e Verdure ($9), a puree of fave beans and seasonal veggies on toasted bread. Or try Antipasto Caldo “Cortile,” ($17) marinated shrimp, lightly fried in wondra flour, sprinkled with lemon and vinegar.
The selection of Pasta is laundry list of Spaghettini, Rigatoni, Cappellini and more, each with a special sauce and vegetables and meat. Danny ordered the Orichettiette Alla Norma ($20), little ear shaped pasta with roasted eggplant, tomatoes and ricotta salata. I went with the “make your own” section of the menu. I ordered gnocchi and tomato sauce ($18). I know this sounds plain and boring and perhaps for the average Bertucci’s or Olive Garden it might be; but, this dish was delivered piping hot. The gnocchi wasn’t the least bit gummy; it was smooth and creamy and the tomato sauce was fresh and sweet. My friend Laura’s very Italian family makes tomato sauce in their garage every year. Up until this restaurant trip, I believed that was the best tomato sauce I’ve ever tasted. To Laura and family, you may have found your rival. Never discount the plain ‘ol tomato sauce folks. At Il Cortile it was absolutely delicioso.
If you’re not feeling the pasta for this trip, there are also many chicken and seafood options for the hungry eater ranging from $20-$50. Order wines by the bottle (the house white is $40) or by the glass; your waiter will gladly help you pair your meal with something special. Having trouble pronouncing those difficult Italian names? Don’t worry, your waiter will help you with that too.
Craving some dessert? Instead of extending our lovely visit at Il Cortile, Danny and I decided to walk down the street and grab some gelato. Overall, Il Cortile was a lovely dining experience. The food was fresh and authentic and everything was served very quickly. My only other complaint (aside from the bread temperature) is that while the service was very good during our meal, our check wasn’t taken for quite some time. Perhaps we were forgotten about because we were outside? A slightly off-putting end to our meal, but in my opinion, it in no way took away from the delightful atmosphere and fresh food.
I wish I had some pictures to share with you all! It’s high time I get a camera. The picture you see is just a street shot! Hopefully I can still convey to you how great this meal was. If you feel like the prices are a little steep for dinner, try the “Power Lunch” menu available Monday- Saturday 12-4. Appetizers are $7.50, Pasta is $12, and Entrees are $15. Definitely give Il Cortile a try the next time you’re in little Italy!