We've come to the conclusion that Italian in Dallas is the rope-a-dope cuisine. It takes its punches and wobbles weakly, acting like it's barely in the ring. Then when you least expect it, it springs to life and delivers a knockout blow. We aren't sure yet if Il Mulino New York is that knockout blow (we're still dizzy, and we think we can get up if the waiter would just quit pointing that finger in our face and give us a hand), but there sure are a lot of parts stinging. There's the tummy (portions are huge), the ribs (the food is so rich it clings) and the wallet (your check will equal the gross domestic product of Lilliput). Il Mulino is bold. It's raw. It's tasty, bluntly flaunting its rich cuisine from Italy's Abruzzi region. And in virtually all instances, this food is beautiful. Zucchini slices, sautéed in wine and garlic, drenched in olive oil and flurried with oregano and pepper flakes, are simply the best rendition of this vegetable we've ever tasted. Pastas are perfectly supple with just the right amount of give against the teeth. But the most compelling composition here is the veal Marsala--a masterpiece. Thin patches of veal are crowded in a haze of porcini mushrooms slathered in a rich, smooth Marsala sauce of uncommon richness, leaving hints of toffee on the finish. And it's a hammer blow to the city's moribund Italian strain that forever wavers between mediocre and tragic.
Maggiano's Little Italy
205 NorthPark Center