Last November, when Mario Batali raised eyebrows by eliminating Del Posto’s café and removing eight tables from the mezzanine, he explained to the Feed, “We’re going to get our second Michelin star and a four-star New York Times review this year, and this is how we’re going to do it.” What Mario wants, Mario gets: In fact, Batals now looks like Babe Ruth pointing to the bleachers, because Sam Sifton has added a star to the three that Frank Bruni gave Del Posto in 2006, making it the first four-star Italian since Parioli Romanissimo in 1974.
Sifton, relishing the drama of it all, explains himself thusly: “Del Posto’s is a pleasure that lasts, offering memories of flavors that may return later in a dream.” He acknowledges its past mistakes (at first, “the restaurant’s service seemed strained, almost theatrical”), but now he says everything from the desserts (thanks to new pastry chef Brooks Headley) to the piano playing has improved. The pastas are “insanely good,” and chef Mark Lardner’s “genius” is that “his cooking is not about recreating Italy on a luxe scale so much as it is about recreating the Italian spirit on the grandest scale imaginable.” So is it time to stop sweating Michael White, Scott Conant, and Andrew Carmellini and come back to the master? In any case, Sifton writes, “It is time to get a reservation and tell everyone you knew this would happen all along.”
Now the question: Can it gain back that Michelin star?
Update: In a Diner's Journal entry, Sifton talks to Mark Lardner to find out how Del Posto managed to step up its game: “He said he started cooking more himself, taking on responsibility for all the restaurant’s menus, something he had partly ceded in the past to sous chefs.”