We never could figure out why critics were so underwhelmed with Morandi when it opened. Not that Keith McNally’s foray into Italian food was exactly slammed, but it got no hint of the love with which all his other restaurants are uniformly showered. Was Morandi the Cable Guy of the McNally canon? An essay by James Beard Foundation VP Mitchell Davis in the new issue of The Art of Eating argues that Morandi is a victim of a double standard: Critics, he says, “evaluate French restaurants and food against an arbitrary standard of tradition or classicism, while judging Italian restaurants and food against an equally arbitrary standard of authenticity.” There might be something to Davis’ point — a lot of ink was spilled on Morandi’s phony-baloney qualities, when they were, after all, meant to be transparent. In any case, the piece is a discerning meta-review and thoughtful in a way typical of The Art of Eating, an obscure but admirable publication unfortunately not available online. With their permission, though, we’re including a PDF of the essay so you can read it in full.
Ed Behr’s The Art of Eating strikes again.