Perhaps you’ve experienced the following: you’re at an Italian restaurant, considering your order. The starters are pretty non-controversial, but when it comes to a second course, you find yourself at a crossroads. Sure, you could order something sensible, like the branzino or the roast chicken, and then you could go home and spend 30 minutes on the Nordic Trac in the basement before taking your daily vitamins. But your heart is telling you to go all in on pasta, with more bowls than there are people at the table.
At Misi, you’ll be free from this existential crisis, because the menu at this Williamsburg restaurant (from the people behind Lilia) only has three sections: vegetables, pasta, and gelato. There’s often a large format off-menu dish, like a steak, but for the most part, protein isn’t part of the Misi food pyramid. This is a pasta restaurant, and one that also serves some good vegetables and some incredible gelato. It’s not as good as Lilia, but then again, few places are.
While you won’t need to decide whether you’re going to eat pasta here, you will need to decide which of the 10 pastas you want to order. And you should take this decision-making process seriously. Our advice here is to prioritize the simple, not-too-saucy pastas like the cacio e pepe-esque fettuccine or the tortelli with brown butter. These two in particular are fantastic, and on par with the pastas at Lilia. Follow that with something like the spaghetti with fennel pesto or the rigatoni. These are also quite good. The seafood-y pastas, like the linguine with anchovy, the malloredus with clams, and the ricotta-filled occhi with bottarga, have consistently been our least favorite, which is surprising, because they sound great on paper. While some of them can be interesting for a few bites, they’re just too intense to finish a whole bowl.
The vegetable antipasti, of which there are also 10, are tasty, and you should get at least one per person of those to start. They tend to lean heavy on vinegar and pickled flavors, so know to expect things like marinated leeks and peppers, and not light salads to start out your meal. And then there’s the gelato, which may actually be Misi’s best course. If Misi opened a gelato stand, it would have a line around the block, and we’d be in it, waiting for a cup of the mint stracciatella. This is some of the best ice cream in New York.
You’ll eat your pasta, vegetables, and gelato in the ground floor of a high-end condo building by the water in Williamsburg, in a space that can feel energetic and fun at times, and high-end condo-ish at others. It doesn’t have the charm of Lilia’s former auto body shop space, but once again, few places do. If you can manage to get a reservation, it’s a fun place for a Friday night date or a Wednesday night let’s-eat-pasta-and-drink-wine-because-we-can meet up. In either of those situations, you’ll likely sit at the long counter overlooking the open kitchen, watching pasta get made and gelato get scooped, which makes for an entertaining show.
Misi is straightforward to begin with, and it’s at its best when it keeps things almost ridiculously simple - so stick to straightforward dishes like the fettuccine and mint gelato, and you’ll enjoy yourself. Just like you’ll enjoy not having to pretend you wanted to share a branzino.
The simplest pasta here, and also the best.
Or this one might be the best? Misi does buttery, cheesy pastas quite well.
This is what you hope the rigatoni with tomato sauce you make at home would taste like. It’s very al dente, and a nice addition to something like the tortelli or fettuccine.
There are a lot of competing flavors in here. Like a Battle Of The Bands or a jousting match, the competition is entertaining, but briefly. Get it only if you’re a group sharing a bunch of things.
There’s also just too much happening in this one, and we say this as people who eat anchovies straight from the tin. Skip, and replace with the pesto.
It’s spaghetti with pesto, but fancier because the pesto is made from fennel and there are big chunks of almonds. Pretty good.
Similar to the occhi, this is interesting and tastes like the ocean. Again, we find the seafood-driven pastas here to be the most skippable.
This is piped ricotta, not marshmallow fluff, which is visually confusing. It comes with a plate of vinegary peppers to put on top, which makes you wonder how marshmallow fluff with peppers would taste. Worse than this, definitely.
Spicy and satisfying, this is one of the bigger starters here, if you’re looking for a heartier vegetable.
Mushrooms with a bunch of foolproof ingredients. This one’s good.
Salad with bone marrow sounds like an exciting proposition, but we could have done without this dish. The balsamic really overpowers here, and we didn’t feel compelled to finish this one.
These roasted tomatoes with hot honey are a Misi summer special, and the best vegetable dish here. If they’re on the menu, get them even if you hate tomatoes.
Fun fact: the gelato may actually be the best thing at Misi. The mint and olive oil flavors are absolutely not to be missed.