New Italian Restaurant, Galli, Now Open on Mercer Street

Steve Gallo and Michael Forrest’s Galli of SoHo specializes in Italian comfort food, but actually offers much more. There’s something for everyone, and your options are equally crisp, fresh, and unadorned with emphasis on pure flavor; flavor, it seems, is deeply respected in this kitchen. Classics like chicken marsala and pasta bolognese are abundant alongside popular options such as grilled salmon and the “integrale” pasta which includes cannelini beans and escarole over whole wheat spaghetti. As an extra draw on health-consciousness, salads are not squished in with starters or sides, but are a square of green on the plentiful (though not book-like) menu.

In terms of atmosphere, Karen Gallo designed the space with an eye for the casually cool: the colors are glamorous, while the textures – knobby wood, shiny black tiles, plush olive upholstery, and exposed red brick – create an atmosphere of leisure. The lighting over and around each table setting enhances Gallo’s stylistic vision of warmth and intimacy. The Galli entrance opens up with a spacious, sexy black marble bar, which leads somewhat narrowly through to a row of spacious booths paired with rustic wooden tables, beyond which the dining room lies under a lofty glass roof. To add an extra layer of interest, good-memory jogging 90’s music blares and every single waiter is both friendly and fun to look at. I guess that’s the icing.

The respect for flavors extends to the drinks menu, where sugar is used as a compliment, not the main event (applause). Drinks at Galli are an art form. The cocktail menu is something that should be admired, read, and, of course, tasted. My top-pick, JJ’s Diamond, has a base of stately Bols Genever and the much sought-after Coochi Americano, laced with fresh lemon, a splash of aromatic, herbal yellow chartreuse, and the flowery sweetness of creme de violette. If you’re more of a hard-kicker, you have fifteen other options for artful blends, and can definitely kick it with the help of the straight-up side of the menu.

Go for every reason I mentioned above as well as Steve’s mom’s riceball recipe. It’s his favorite, which is likely to be your favorite. The non-guilty pleasure (as in…I don’t feel one bit guilty about eating 5 out of 6 of these): mozzchips. Six thin slices of fresh mozzarella, breaded, fried until crispy-melty, and served with a generous ladle of pomodoro. Bring people you love, order heartily, pass around plates so that no one misses a thing, and celebrate your senses at Soho’s new gem, Galli.

Galli: 45 Mercer Street, NYC / (212) 966 – 9288

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