First Taste

The new Trattoria Il Mulino in Westin Memorial City: A good hotel restaurant, but nothing more

The new Trattoria Il Mulino in Westin Memorial City: A good hotel restaurant, but nothing more

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Trattoria Il Mulino, inside the Westin Memorial City, is open and modern Photo by Kevin Marple
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I was surprised by the comfortable lounge space in the bar area. Photo by Kevin Marple
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Trattoria Il Mulino's meatballs are good, but not quite as good as Tony's. Photo by Kevin Marple
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The gnocchi bolognese were a high point in the meal. Photo by Sarah Rufca
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But the mound of spiderwebbed carpaccio di carne was a low point. Photo by Sarah Rufca
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Trattoria Il Mulino is not Il Mulino. Well, it is and it isn't.

As the fourth location of Il Mulino's more casual spin-off, the Trattoria in the new Westin Memorial City doesn't have the small, old New York feel of the original in Greenwich Village. Instead it's open and modern, with sleek seating (leather chairs are a nice surprise and no white tablecloths here) a large color-splashed lounge and bar space. It's not casual my any stretch, but it's comfortable, not stuffy.

But for the lovely atmosphere around me, the antipasti were a bit of a a disappointment. I liked the meatballs, which had plenty of spice and a nice texture. However the arancini, or Italian fried rice balls, tasted bland and unexciting.

The biggest curiosity was the carpaccio di carne, served as a large mound of raw meat with a spider web pattern of mayo on top. Though the dish tasted great, I couldn't get past the extremely odd choice of proportion and presentation. Compared to the elegantly restrained beef carpaccio I'd recently been served at The Tasting Room, this was almost vulgar.

I had better luck with the entrees, on the other hand. The gnocchi bolognese was rich and wonderfully fluffy, not heavy at all, with a meat sauce that was mild but complemented well. I also liked the tortellini alla panna, with a rich cream sauce and plenty of peas. The tortellini itself was a little dense but I liked how it was served on the al dente side. Going for the meats, I found the saltimbocca with prosciutto, spinach and sage nicely flavored but overcooked.

Desserts were your general Italian standards — rich chocolate mousse cake, decent tiramisu, etc., with a better than average panna cotta — and while I wouldn't recommend the house cocktails, I did like the housemade limoncello and the grappa infused with different flavors. I'm not generally a grappa fan, but the fig version I tried was nicely palatable, even a little sweet.

I can't see downtowners heading to Trattoria over Da Marco or Quattro, but on the west side it should serve as an Italian alternative to something like Taste of Texas. But without any real risks on the menu some might wonder why they need to go up a price point from CityCentre's Brio.

Trattoria Il Mulino has a lot going for it, but there's more "Trattoria" than "Il Mulino" in its DNA. It's a good hotel restaurant that even has moments of greatness, but it's still a hotel restaurant.