Florio and the Lesbian Mussels

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Florio is a little restaurant in my neighborhood that I dine at only once or twice a year. Quite frankly, the menu has always been a bit too restrained for my tastes; generic steak frites and mundane roast chicken. Not bad at all, just dishes I always felt I could create at home. In fact, the times I have gone there I have always enjoyed myself, but was never blown away. But when my older sister comes to visit, Florio is a favorite for her for the very reasons I forget about it; she is a woman who revels in a good roast chicken, craves a hearty steak with fries, and loves its basic goodness.

When she arrived for the annual jaunt up Fillmore Street for pre-Thanksgiving shopping, I tried to steer her towards some other establishments. “S.P.Q.R. has a new chef,” I entreated. “Japantown is just a block away,” I reminded. Nope. She wanted Florio.

Trying to be a bit on the healthier side, I started with a salad of shaved fennel, anchovies, and pomelos. And was I ever surprised. That which used to earmark as staid and mundane was now surprisingly fresh and innovative. Sister Sue had a squash soup which was heightened with fresh wild mushrooms – so creamy and rich and engaging. Continuing in her vein of comfort food, Susan ordered a Berkshire pork Milanese with house-made sauerkraut, fingerling potatoes, and mustard sauce. Pounded thin like a veal cutlet, for $19 this dish was astonishingly good; tender, moist, and with a great crust, possibly made with the addition of panko for extra crunchiness. I was a bit jealous I hadn’t ordered the dish myself.

Except that I had ordered mussels. From Totten Inlet, this was offered as a starter for $13.50 but with my salad opener, I wasn’t worried that I had under-ordered. And then the mussels arrived. Crowned with an aïoli-topped crouton, I have to admit that I have never seen such engorged, fleshy, monstrously huge mussels. There is no way to get around the sexual innuendo of these bivalves, but beyond the obvious shape, the taste elevated the experience to one of ecstasy. They were tender and rich, a clean white-wine broth combining with the garlicky sauce of the aïoli to create a creamy milkiness akin to… well… Okay, I suppose saying the dish was orgasmic is going to far, huh? Enough said.

Suffice to say I have a new fondness and respect for Florio. It is far from staid and sedate. I have found a new gem in my neighborhood to bring friends. And a last word on service: Exemplary.
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