Last month, Carolina, Lauren and I decided we were finally going to go to L’Orcio, an Italian restaurant we’d been wanting to visit for years. Located at 806 State Street in East Rock, L’Orcio is well-known among New Haven locals for its great ambiance and even better dishes.
To start we decided to split three different appetizers: the impepata di cozze, the Antipasto dell’orcio, and a caesar salad. The impetpata di cozze is a large dish of steamed PEI mussels in a white wine sauce, topped with garlic and black pepper served red. The real winner in this dish was the white wine sauce: flavorful but light so it didn’t overpower the seafood taste. The sauce was so good we asked for two more sides of bread to dip in the sauce after we’d finished all the mussels and our other appetizers.
Flex for me

Flex for me

We also tried two other appetizers, a salad and the house special. The caesar salad was simple as expected, perfectly coated in just the right amount of homemade dressing but didn’t look or taste like anything special.  The antipasto dell’orcio however, was fantastic. It comes deconstructed with in-house roasted peppers, grilled marinated artichoke hearts, grilled asparagus, ricotta pesto spread, and homemade Italian flatbread. The bread was fantastic, as it should be at an Italian restaurant, but the roasted red peppers and ricotta pesto spread really won us over.
Antipasto dell'Orcio

Antipasto dell’Orcio

For the entrees we split five different dishes: three pastas and two meats. One of the top two dishes of the night was the agnello grigliato: grilled New Zealand baby lamb chops with mint sauce over a bead of zucchini. It’s easy for lamb chops to come out dry but that was not the case here. The meat was flavorful, juicy and perfectly complemented by the roasted zucchini.
Lamb chops

Lamb chops

The second meat we ordered was the bistecca grigliata, a 14 oz. NY strip steak with arugula on the side. As an avid steak lover and the designated meat orderer in the Chew Haven group, I haven’t come across many amazing steaks at New Haven restaurants. The steak at L’Orcio was cooked perfectly with a light seasoning that didn’t overpower, and is a huge dish next to the lamb chops.
The chef unexpectedly recommended the ravioli Di Ceci. The handmade chickpea ravioli with cherry tomato, rosemary and red pepper, and pecorino romano which was surprisingly delicious. It came in a light tomato sauce sprinkled with parmesan cheese.
Ravioli di ceci

Ravioli di ceci

The second pasta dish we ordered was another ravioli, but this time we made sure there was some cheese. The ravioli di pesto was good but not our favorite dish of the night. The sauce was a solid standard tomato sauce and worked really well with the pesto, but nothing about this dish separated it from raviolis at other Italian restaurants. The chickpea ravioli was more unique and flavorful in comparison, and since both ravioli dishes were very small I recommend ordering an appetizer on the side.
Pesto ravioli

Pesto ravioli

Perhaps one of the best dishes of the night was the Norma: homemade cavetelli pasta, eggplant sauce with tomato, onion, basil, toped with aged ricotta. The eggplant sauce has a smooth flavor with dense chunks of eggplant in every bite that went well with the al dente cavatelli. The generous heaps of aged ricotta was a perfect topping on this dish, adding more texture and creaminess than a traditional sprinkling of parmesan.
Our meal ended on a very high note, with three desserts that warrant their own trip to L’Orcio. The tiramisu was exceptional, with soft, tangy mascarpone and generous layers of espresso-soaked lady fingers.

tiramisu me

The “Charlotte” dessert was a chocolate mousse cake encrusted with rum-soaked amaretto cookies topped with fresh whipped cream. The amaretto cake bits brought enough sweetness to complement the rich chocolate mousse.
The Torta della Nonna was a short crust cake filled with pastry cream topped with almonds and powdered sugar. This dessert was lighter than the other two and had a hint of lemon zest. I would definitely recommend this if you’re a fan of other lemon or almond based desserts.

L’Orcio offered a fantastic Italian meal that you can’t find on campus. It’s definitely a great place for parents weekend as the menu can get somewhat pricey with certain entrees and the vibe would make any parent happy. They also have a large outdoor seating area that’s popular during the warmer months, so keep that in mind for when it starts to get warm again.

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