There comes a time in life when roles reverse and you start feeling proud of your parents. For me this happened about a month or so ago, when my mother and I took a mini retreat to New York City for her birthday. The whole trip was spot on.
We arrived for happy hour at precisely 5:29 pm at The Mermaid Inn in the East Village. (To sweeten the deal, they also serve tiny espresso cups of chocolate pudding with your check.) We ate soft shell crab sandwiches at The Dutch. We stayed at the fancy pants Mondrian hotel in Soho. And we had one of the best meals of our lives at Torrisi Italian Specialties.
Torrisi is a 20-seat restaurant that only serves a prix fix dinner with a menu that changes daily. You can choose between surf or turf for your protein. The rest is up to the kitchen.
We sat at window seats covered with lace curtains and drank red wine, while they served us a parade of little dishes, which included a warm, oozy homemade mozzarella that was better than any fresh cheese I've ever tasted. It was also at Torrisi that a sense of pride bubbled up as I sat, a bit wine-eyed, and watched my mother—notorious sushi-hater—bravely eat raw scallops. And like it.
I could have wept. Over my daughterly pride. Over the uncooked mollusks. And over the goat cheese gnocchi that appeared for the pasta course.
Lucky for me, no tears would be needed over the gnocchi. This was a course I was pretty certain could be replicated, with a few minor tweaks. For my first attempt, making goat cheese gnocchi seemed a bit ambitious without a recipe, so I opted for Barbara Lynch’s guide for homemade ricotta gnocchi.
While the recipe is fairly simple, it requires some steps, a gentle touch, and care and patience. Given the meal and service we received at Torrisi, I’m fairly certain this is how they view their food as well. This ricotta gnocchi is worth the time it takes, as Torrisi alone is worth a trip to New York.
And it was over a pastel-colored birthday cupcake from buttercream institution, Magnolia Bakery, that my mother revealed that our trip had been one of her best birthdays; noting she felt similarly on her eighth birthday, when she received a sweater dress with a dog on it (it was the first dress she owned that wasn’t homemade).
With the passing of a half-century, things have come full circle. 'Homemade' is a prized commodity these days. And I’m fairly certain my mother would be tickled to see the stacks of homemade gnocchi in my freezer. There they lay waiting for the moment to be called into duty: to be joined with a summery tomato sauce or, like today, celebrated in basil oil. They are light, wispy creatures. They also standby, ready to be cooked in minutes and are worthy of a special occasion (or of an occasion to make special).
So with a tear in my eye, I say: make the gnocchi. Or perhaps just do something to make someone you love proud. It could be eating raw shellfish for the first time. Or buying someone a sweater dress with a dog on it. Whatever the gesture—and especially if there is homemade gnocchi involved—it will likely be a special moment.