Review: Splurging on Italian in the Village

As the semester winds down and graduation approaches, many of us are bombarded by the questions of soon-to-be visiting relatives. Many of our families want to meticulously plan every detail of their trip to see us graduate, including where to stay, what to wear, what car to rent, and most importantly—at least in my family—where to eat. While I do believe that graduation is a time for ridiculous self-indulgence, “self-indulgence” is a very relative term. For some, it may mean caviar and Grey Goose vodka; for me, however, a medium 21 Choices yogurt with a mix-in straddles the line of excess. That’s why graduation is the perfect time to dine at any of the Italian restaurants in the Village. They’re all close, upscale, and delicious, and since your parents will hopefully be so proud of that diploma, it may be one of those rare opportunities to order an extravagant meal on somebody else’s tab. With both Tutti Mangia and Aruffo’s to choose between for fabulous meals, your family’s only concern in terms of dining will likely be how to avoid getting spaghetti sauce on their fancy clothes.

Upon looking at Tutti Mangia’s menu, I’m reminded of why I’ve only been there once in four years. While the comprehensive menu may be enough to make you drool without even seeing the food, the prices might make the McDonald’s value menu seem momentarily appealing. However, when your generous family is sporting the tab, take your pick of any of their regional specialties. For those with smaller appetites, Tutti Mangia offers a great solution: for $20, the “light supper menu” offers your choice of minestrone, salad, or bruschetta, and one of several main courses, such as the Roman specialty “bucatini all’amatriciana,” hollow spaghetti in a spicy tomato sauce with pancetta (the Italian version of bacon), or “risotto con funghi,” a creamy mushroom risotto. Main courses include options for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Once you try the “tortellacci”—big tortellini pasta stuffed with butternut squash in a browned butter sauce with sage—it may become your new favorite comfort food over mac n’ cheese (albeit a tad pricier, at $18). Meat eaters can sink their teeth into authentic “osso buco” (veal shank) or the ultimate indulgence, a $42 “bistecca di manzo”—a 12 ounce USDA Prime New York steak rubbed with cumin and black peppercorn. On my last visit here, my group was amazed by the “tre formagii e salsiccia” pizza—classic Italian thin-crust style, topped with sweet, marinated tomatoes, spicy Italian sausage, and three cheeses. Another hit was the “orecchiette con pollo”—little ears of pasta tossed in a delicate Romano cream sauce of sautéed chicken, fresh spinach, and mushrooms, accompanied by tender strips of prosciutto. The sauce was rich and satisfying without being too overwhelming and allowed each individual ingredient to shine. “Tutti Mangia” may be translated colloquially as “everybody eats,” and everybody in my group was definitely scarfing down every last bite of this dish.

If it’s massive amounts of carbs you seek after the long graduation ceremony, look no further than Aruffo’s. Their legendary bread is lightly brushed with olive oil, herbs, and a delicate tomato topping, it manages to be slightly crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and insanely addictive. Luckily, though, bread is not the only option at Aruffo’s: like Tutti Mangia, the menu spans traditional pastas, meats, and pizzas, with irresistible specialties such as the crab ravioli or, in case you can’t wait until Thanksgiving to get your pumpkin fix, a pumpkin ravioli with a whipped, mousse-like filling that’s both savory and sweet and topped with walnuts. Most pastas are about $20, and the higher quality meats can run around $30. Legendary lasagna, heavenly crab bisque, and vegetarian ricotta and eggplant pasta are just some of the menu highlights, and the chocolate crme brlée, torched to perfection and topped with fresh berries, offers a decadent end to your dinner. Overall, while Tutti Mangia features more authentic, untainted Italian specialties, Aruffo’s caters more to the American taste bud—pastas are drowned, not gently tossed, in their sauces, and I’m still disappointed that some genuine Italian dishes have lost their authenticity. For example, in Italy, “pasta carbonara” would come with a cream sauce of pecorino cheese, pancetta, and an egg cracked in at the last minute to bind the pasta together. At Aruffo’s, the egg is nowhere to be found, and the bacon tastes more like the Canadian bacon you could pick off Frary pizza. While the end result is still satisfying, this dish and several others may seriously offend anybody who has traveled in Italy. While the majority of dishes at Aruffo’s will certainly make your graduation dinner a huge success, expect more of an upscale Olive Garden than a true “ristorante italiano.”

The end of the school year is a time to reflect on one’s friendships, appreciate one’s education, and, most importantly, abuse your family’s generosity by taking them out for an expensive meal. Many of us have limited the majority of our food-related Village trips to either 21 Choices or cocktails at The Press, patiently awaiting those words that every cheap foodie dreams about (“Order whatever you want; it’s your special day!”). Luckily, both Tutti Mangia and Aruffo’s offer great solutions to that opportunity for self-indulgence, and as seniors entering a horrible post-graduation economy, we should seize the chance for an expensive but worthwhile meal before we start considering Domino’s five-star Italian cuisine.

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