East End Eats: Bravo, Il Mulino!
108 Wainscott Stone Road
Il Mulino is like the Italian version of the Hillstone Group of restaurants. Big, expensive, efficient, and very good. It has numerous locations in New York City and on Long Island, along with outposts in Orlando (Disney World), Atlanta, San Juan, Las Vegas, Tokyo, and now Wainscott.
This big, beautiful Tudor house on Georgica Pond has seen many restaurant incarnations over the years: Sapore di Mare, Maya’s, Saracen, Georgica, Osteria Salinia. The interior is now creamy whites with wood and tile floors, several dining rooms, and a beautiful enclosed porch overlooking the pond. This room has superbly soundproofed windows. You would never know you are on the highway. There is now a wood-burning oven for pizzas, but this was not yet operational on our visit.
One of the best things about Il Mulino (the Mill) is all the goodies you get upon being seated. First a huge half wheel of Parmesan is brought to the table and chunks are gouged out and placed on your bread plate. Then you are offered a variety of focaccia breads — tomato, olive, and spicy toasted slices on this particular evening. Next comes a little plate of fried zucchini chips doused with garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. After that, there are slices of bruschetta with tomato topping, all of it delicious.
We began our meal with clams oreganata, grilled octopus, fluke carpaccio, Caesar salad, and a half order of porcini-truffle raviolis. The clams were good: six small ones, lightly breaded, with a garlicky broth on the bottom of the plate. The grilled octopus (two tentacles) was tender and served with orange sections and a shaved fennel and frisée salad.
The fluke carpaccio was not good. It was just a bit too fishy tasting. I never complain or send a dish back when I am reviewing, but on this occasion I felt it was warranted. After my guests tasted it and concurred that it was not fresh, fresh, fresh, the dish was removed . . . but we were still charged for it.
The Caesar salad was a refined version; tender small hearts of romaine were dressed in a lemony mustardy vinaigrette, not much garlic or anchovy flavor. The half order of porcini truffle ravioli was rich and flavorful and uber-creamy, a big hit.
For main courses we ordered eggplant rolatini, lobster ravioli, and osso bucco. The eggplant rolatini was stuffed with crabmeat and shrimp, covered in a vecchia bettola (creamy tomato sauce), and served with some perfectly sautéed spinach. We all agreed it was excellent. The lobster ravioli was equally rich and creamy, topped with the same sauce. It was almost as good as the eggplant. The osso bucco was superb, as it should be at a whopping $75! The meat was tender, moist, and flavorful, the saffron risotto creamy and cooked just right, and the marrow bone statuesque.
The service on the night of our visit was excellent, especially considering Il Mulino has only been open for a month. Our waiter, Luka, was charming and knowledgeable. There were also what seemed like at least 10 other people swarming about the table, whisking away empty (and almost empty) plates and glasses, crumbing the tablecloth, replenishing waters and utensils. When Jimmy Fallon bounded onto the porch for his early bird dinner with his wife, I figured the swarm would immediately move in his direction, but our service continued to be very attentive.
The prices at Il Mulino are high. The appetizers, carpaccios, salads, tartares, pizzas, and other antipasti are $14 to $110. The $14 is for olives, the $110 for caviar. Pastas, meat, and fish dishes are $29 to $57, and sides and desserts are $15.
After we finished our entrees and before we ordered dessert, we were offered tiny glasses of fig liqueur. It was sweet and wonderful, like liquid Fig Newtons. All of the desserts are made in house. We tried two and both were good. One was a moist limoncello tiramisu with sabayon, the other an almond-infused ricotta cheesecake. Both were served with a scattering of berries, a generous helping of fresh whipped cream, and, inexplicably, a good bit of Hershey’s chocolate syrup on both plates.
Our dinner was delicious and delightful. It is not clear whether Il Mulino will be seasonal or year round, but this outpost of the empire is a welcome addition to the East End.