Update: Chef Forrest Pasternack has left Morello and is now Executive Chef at Bailey’s Backyard. Taking his place is Executive Chef Kevin Garcia.
One of the great things about being OmNomCT is getting treated to special opportunities for blogger and press dinners. This one was especially tasty. As we entered Morello Bistro (owned by MARC of London), we were taken aback at how beautiful this Greenwich spot was. Stunningly beautiful, actually, with massive, tiled arches, and a dome ceiling. Yes, a seriously amazing place. Normally you’d think that a place with such natural beauty in the heart of Greenwich would cost you your organs, your arms, your legs, and a few extra appendages, but you’d be wrong. The crew at Morello Bistro are really trying to keep things at affordable prices. Brunch entrees range from $9-27, lunch from $13-26, and dinner from $18-38.
We were invited to this press dinner to celebrate not only four years in business, but also Chef Forrest Pasternack’s new gig as Executive Chef. Now, this guy’s been around the proverbial block a few times. Maybe that’s because he started young. He worked at Kabuki, an Asian restaurant in Danbury that his adoptive parents owned. Soon he found himself as kitchen manager and heading to the CIA (no, not to become a spy…Culinary Institute of America, duh) to fulfill his passion to cook. Even while he was getting his degree, Chef Pasternack worked at Zoe Restaurant in Manhattan and The Town Crier in Pawling, NY. From there, he found himself working at some killer spots: Soho Grand Hotel in NY, Marcus Samuelson’s Aquavit, Mario Batali’s Esca, and David Chang’s oft-praised Momofuku. In 2009 he took his skills to Greenwich, CT and became executive chef of Terra Restaurant. Now…well, now Morello Bistro is lucky enough to have him.
So, let us take you on the culinary journey Executive Chef Forrest Pasternack took us through at Morello Bistro:
Starting with the Appetizers at the bar…
Eggplant parm bites: breaded eggplant with whipped Calabaro ricotta
The eggplant was crispy, breaded nicely, and had a great bite to it. No sogginess, no bitterness that you so often get. We’re not usually fans of eggplant, but this we would eat anytime!
Stuffed baby bella mushrooms: mushrooms, garlic, herbed breadcrumbs
The mushrooms were delicate, just the right texture. The flavor had that nice earthiness you expect from mushrooms, but with a nice garlic kick and crispy breadcrumbs on top.
Chicken Francese: Chicken, lemon, butter, thick spaghetti
This nicely cooked chicken was served in an adorable little spoon atop perfectly al dente pasta that was deliciously lemony and oh so buttery.
Moving on to the main dishes…
When we got to our table, we had two nice antipasti platters to pick at. You had everything you’d expect, including meats like lardo, cheeses, and house-pickled veggies. Everything was fresh and of great quality. A great start!
Oysters: creamed leeks, pancetta, herbed bread crumbs
The stuffed oysters had a creamy filling that was perfectly offset by the crunchy breadcrumbs. We didn’t really get as much pancetta that we would’ve liked, but it was still yummy.
House smoked salmon carpaccio: lemon aioli, baby arugula, shaved fennel
Thin and delicate, this was a great dish. The salmon, too, had a great smoky taste. And it does help that we are huge fennel lovers.
Roasted black mission fig salad: gorgonzola, frisee, toasted walnuts, baby arugula, lemon dressing
The dressing was bright and vibrant and contrasted nicely with the earthy and bold flavors of the gorgonzola and the figs. The figs, themselves, were soft, warm (which is not the typical way of serving it) and held the cheese nicely in their bellies. A beautiful and well-balanced dish. Kristien’s favorite!
Chanterelle mushroom risotto: parmigiano reggiano, white truffle salt
A very nice risotto that had great contrasts of the punch of the cheese with the earthiness from the mushrooms.
Morello’s signature garganelli bolognese: handmade garganelli, tomato-meat ragu, herbed ricotta
Wow. The pasta was handmade, had a nice give to it, and was served perfectly al dente. The sauce on top was just a bit spicy, earthy, and oh so rich. This is the kind of dish that you could order and it would fill you up for the entire night. Warm and comforting all the way. Dan’s favorite!
Halibut roasted in foil: local corn, carrots, squash, hothouse toy box tomatoes, basil
This was a fun presentation. Servers came along with knives and cut open the foil. As they made an incision, puffs of steam came billowing out, scenting the air. The halibut was so flaky and juicy and was flavored nicely by the veggies that were roasted with it. The tomatoes were a nice touch adding acidity to the dish.
Beef short ribs: roasted parsnip puree, spiced squash, parsnip chips
The meat was delicate and could simply be tugged off with a fork. The puree was good, but we felt like it could have used a bit more of a kick from salt or seasoning.
Merlot berry sorbet
Yummy, full of flavor, especially great with fresh berries. Oh, and surprise–there was some sweet cream on the bottom. You definitely need to take a bit of that and take some sorbet.
Salted caramel cheesecake: graham cracker crumb, almond tuile
Lauren Taranto, the pastry chef, baked up quite a nice batch of goodies for us. The cheesecake was creamy and rich and had just the right amount of salty taste from the caramel. The perfect sweet and salty dessert!
White chocolate mousse cake: homemade oreo crumb, edible chocolate plate, chocolate tuile
In the name of all things holy, this was one amazing desert. First of all, that oreo crumb crust was just amazingly decadent and crave-worthy. Secondly, the mousse was light, fluffy, and full of chocolate punch. Lastly, everybody seemed to be pleasantly surprised when they crunched down on the crust and the plate that held the mousse crumpled to pieces–it was a chocolate plate. :) Fun!
Final Thoughts (Our Jerry Springer Moment)
We definitely enjoyed this culinary journey and will be finding our way back to Morello Bistro this winter. It was the wonderful blend of Italian comfort food with fancy culinary twists and additions that made it a well-rounded, solid meal.
We’d like to thank Linda for organizing this and Forrest, Lauren, and everybody at Morello Bistro for a fabulous dinner.
Address: 253 Greenwich Avenue
Greenwich, CT 06830
Phone: (203) 661-3443