My wife and I dined the other night at Fiamma in Soho. The big surprise was not the empty room but the mediocre food. I asked if Michael White, the chef we've followed over the years, was in the kitchen, and the waiter leaned in to say quietly that the chef had actually quit two weeks ago and that he had done so the week his Fiamma cookbook had been delivered. I have not read anything about this move anywhere.
The news of White's departure was reported last month in the Times, but the item was easy to miss. According to an Eater tipster, White no longer wanted to work for the "slave-driving" Steven Hanson. Who knows. But these kind of conflicts are par for the course in the restaurant business; it was probably just bad luck that you went soon after White left — the current executive chef, Christian Santoni, may not have had the kitchen up and running smoothly (although he was White's chef de cuisine for years, doing most of the actual cooking). Donna Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the B.R. Guest Restaurants group, which owns Fiamma, told us, "Christian has been with us for a very long time, and while he'll be adding a few dishes and making the menu a little more his own, the menu and the food will be basically the same as when Michael was here." Our advice: Give Fiamma another shot once the dust has settled.