Situated down on quaint, cobble-stoned Mercer Street in SoHo, Galli is an Italian restaurant that markets itself as the haven for Italian “comfort food,” whatever that means. According to its “About Us” page, the recipes for the dishes found on Galli’s menu have been passed down from Sicilian family members of yore to the Gallos, who are the restaurant’s founders. A menu filled with “typical” Italian dishes, such as penne a la vodka and meatball parmesan, does not scream “authentic Sicilian” to me, but perhaps I’m only quibbling over semantics.
Galli’s website will have you believe that it’s a comfortable, casual environment. While the main dining room certainly is striking, with black-and-white photos adorning the exposed-brick walls, the seating arrangement is anything but cozy. The words “strangling” and “anxiety-inducing” come to mind, rather.
When we arrived at Galli for our 7 p.m. reservation, we were greeted and briskly whisked away to the large dining room in the back of the space. Of the 20 to 25 tables that were nearly touching each other, about three were occupied. Still, the hostess carelessly sat us in the corner, directly beside a couple of women. I requested to change our table, as I was already legitimately concerned for how I would escape from this setup, and the waiter informed me he had to ask the hostess if we could move. Instead of putting us somewhere else, the hostess sat another two women to our right. So now I was blocked in. Forever.
MDP and I were not amused.
With all this said, I should inform you that Galli’s food is pretty good. For those of you who have been reading this blog for some time, you are aware of my usual loathing for Italian restaurants. However, Galli served up delectable fare, which is probably the biggest compliment I could give it.
We started our meal with the “mad” calamari. Galli offers three types of calamari, and we went with the rather standard one, which was tossed in a spicy marinara sauce. The small dish that emerged from the kitchen was a plate, rather than a bowl, and it was covered with tiny fried rings (and things) that were drenched in the sauce. It was fantastic. The marinara sauce lived up to its spicy description, making each bite resonate like a ringing bell in my mouth.
Moving on, we each ordered off the mains section of the dinner menu, avoiding the 20 or so pasta dishes listed at the top. This was a wise move. I opted for the chicken parmesan, because, as I’ve said before, how can you screw up this dish? MDP got the veal milanese, which comes with an arugula salad on top. While the milanese was good, it did not compare to Palma’s whose intricately constructed arugula salad is mind-blowing and delicious. The veal was tender, though, so Galli gets points for that. My chicken was dressed with ample mozzarella and a too-sweet-for-my-liking marinara sauce, with a side of pasta that was overcooked (this is why I’m glad I didn’t order a pasta for the main dish). I can’t say I can forgive Galli for overcooked pasta – after all, isn’t pasta the very meal that Italians have perfected over the past millennium?
After the staff cleared our table, I promptly signaled for the waiter to come over and bring us a dessert menu. The space was filling up, and my level of anxiety about getting out of there was directly proportional to the number of bodies in the room. I was disappointed to see that Galli does not serve ricotta cheesecake, but “cheesecake a la Americano” instead. Why bother putting cheesecake on the menu at all, if it’s not going to be Italian? We ordered the tiramisu, and I was delightfully surprised both by the size of the portion and the creaminess of the dish. The whipped cream served on the side tasted like Reddi-wip, which is not a knock against Reddi-wip, but against the restaurant’s best judgment.
All in all, I was pleased with the food. Yet, I would not return to Galli and do not recommend that you bother with it. The only reason why I selected this restaurant was because it received high reviews on Yelp–always a mistake to trust this website. As you know by now, you should always consult Taylor’s Ham when making reservations.
45 Mercer Street (between Grand and Broome)
SoHo, New York
Take the N/Q/J/Z/6 to Canal Street and walk about six minutes.