When Matt Maroni's Gaztro-Wagon hit the road, it caused a stir. When he started pushing for more change in the city's food truck laws, he raised more eyebrows. And tonight, when Maroni opens Morso, his innovative new restaurant in the former Terragusto space on Armitage, the food and concept will likely have people talking once again.
Morso bucks the standard menu format and instead opts to break things down in easy-to-navigate small-plate categories: raw, shellfish, offal, veg, fish and game. But it's what's on the plates that seems to be most intriguing. Maroni has dishes like crispy oysters and crab cake with bacon chard, leek and scallop sauce; antelope "tonnato" with caperberry, focaccia, dandelion and lemon; crispy veal sweetbreads with avocado, smoked tomato and radish; and whitefish with yogurt, peach, watercress and pecans.
The space is clean and simple and, frankly, feels like you've walked into someone's minimalist home. The first floor dining room has high ceilings, an open kitchen, exposed brick wall and ducts, black ceiling fans and large windows that let in natural light. Upstairs, the first-come, first-served lounge has a black and white motif with black wood tables, white throw pillows on the banquettes, a marble fireplace with a stuffed buck's head stationed above it, two large mirrors and a sliding wood door.
That lounge is where the only bar lives and where mixologist Matthew "Choo" Lipsky (The Southern) concocts drinks with small-batch spirits with a focus on bourbon and whiskey, and he uses 29 different types of bitters, all set up on the back bar. Choo features three different rotating beers at a time, starting with Founder's, Victory and Avery; and all bottles on the wine list (save the $300 2003 Barolo) can be ordered by the glass.
The restaurant officially opens tonight and reservations can only be made by calling 773-880-9280.