San Domenico, long a fixture on Central Park South, is moving. Staff were told the other night that the place will remain open through June and then close for six months. It will reopen in January in a location which will be announced once the lease is signed. Modernist designer Massimo Vignelli and Daniel Barteluce Architects already have a new design in the works. We are trying to reach owner Tony May to find out the reason behind the move, although naturally we guess that exorbitant rents may have something to do with it. More as this develops.
Lost in the shuffle of this year's high-profile openings has been a major lingering question: What ever happened to Scott Conant? One of the city's top Italian chefs, Conant last year gave up both of his restaurants, L'Impero and Alto, to pursue a mystery project. (Michael White took over both places, to great acclaim.) Conant monkeyed around in the Hamptons, consulting for a friend, but only now is his next real project in view.
Fiamma got a fair amount of heat last week, from Grub Street and other food sites, about a reduced menu. But B.R. Guest which did not respond to Grub Street’s requests for comments on the menu until yesterday vehemently disagrees. “No one had updated the Website,” says owner Steve Hanson. “They just got lazy.” We’d hate to be in their shoes now! Fiamma chef Fabio Trabocchi, meanwhile, explains that the confusion also lay in the fact that the Website wasn’t showing his daily specials or updating the tasting menu. “If you came in and ordered here, it’s the same amount of selections; you can choose from any part of the menu. It’s the same amount of dishes, just listed in a different way,” Trabocchi says. And those luxe ingredients we thought were missing from the menu? Not so, says Trabocchi. “We are using foie gras, truffles, Wagyu beef, ossabaw pig, and Grimaud Farm duck.” (The langoustines, which we also mentioned as having gone missing, are out of season, Trabocchi explains.) Unfortunately for Fiamma, even a full menu can't sate complaining diners like Nick Paumgarten of The New Yorker.
Earlier: Fiamma’s Menu a Fraction of Its Former Self
We’re not surprised that Babbo is the city’s top Italian restaurant, according to Zagat's new America's 1,000 Top Italian Restaurants book — its popularity alone is enough, in Zagat-land, to ensure yearly dominance. And in fact, Babbo is a wonderful restaurant, four stars by our lights, and justly beloved. But if you had any doubt how unreliable the Zagat surveyors are, just check out number two: Village relic Il Mulino! Now, don’t get us wrong: Il Mulino is a fine restaurant and uses very expensive ingredients to good effect. The tuxedoed wait staff are as servile as ever. But it should be the second-most-popular Italian restaurant of 1958. Haven’t the matrons of Secaucus ever heard of A Voce? Or L’Impero? Or for that matter Del Posto? Don’t look for any of those at number three: The winner there is another beloved mummy, Roberto in the Bronx.
Zagat names Babbo New York's No. 1 Italian restaurant [NYDN]
We’re told that Fiamma has sprung into action, using all the powers of the B.R. Guest machine, to try to ferret out what went so catastrophically wrong with Nick Paumgarten’s meal. “We are all disappointed in the service. We take this very seriously and have everyone looking into the problems,” B.R. Guest chieftain Steve Hanson tells us. But all the negative attention Fiamma has gotten over the last day or so obscures a larger, thornier question about the restaurant: What has happened to the sprawling, lavish, ambitious menu that Fabio Trabocchi launched his administration with?
If you’re dating an art-rock fan who likes Italian food, do we ever find the Valentine’s Day date for you! Pitchfork reports that TV on the Radio guitarist Kyp Malone is hosting an all-you-can-eat Italian feast at the Glasslands Gallery, in Williamsburg. For $7, you can eat some ziti and dance. And, if you’re single, this may be the place to find the pasta-loving hipster of your dreams.
Spend Valentine's Day With TV on the Radio's Malone [Pitchfork]
Jason Denton’s new restaurant, the one for which he poached Steve Connaughton (from himself) at Lupa, is called Bar Milano and will open at the end of March, Denton says. He promises an Italian restaurant specializing in the regions of Northern Italy: Veneto, Piedmont, and Emilia-Romagna. The wine list will also draw from those areas and includes some “really affordable wines,” he claims. But wait: It will also be “really fun, in the vein of 'inoteca and Lupa, but with elevated service and price point.” What's fun about that? We'll go anyway those restaurants are good.
Related: Jason Denton Pulls Lupa Chef for New Gramercy Venture
Each week, we'll be highlighting one of the great but obscure young chefs running one of the city's major restaurants. These are the unheralded chefs de cuisine, the right arms to the name chefs, and when they are big stars themselves, you can say that you read about them here first.Name: Gordon Finn
Restaurant: Alto Background: Finn, a CIA graduate, earned his Italian-food chops cooking in good restaurants in Puglia, Tuscany, and Lombardy, before signing on with Scott Conant as line cook and then pasta chef at Alto, and eventually, under Michael White, chef de cuisine.
So you think you know spaghetti carbonara? You don’t know spaghetti carbonara. That is the theme of the Italian chef coalition ITChefs – GVCI’s current campaign to educate New Yorkers about the classic dish. TChefs – GVCI’, which stands for Virtual Group of Italian Chefs, is charging four of the city’s top Italian chefs to make it exactly according to the “authentic” recipe for one night. On Thursday, Cesare Casella of Maremma, Mark Ladner of Del Posto, Kevin Garcia of Accademia de Vino, and Ivan Beacco of Borgo Antico, will make the dish according to the master recipe approved by ITChefs – GVCI. Or will they? Like every traditional recipe in every cuisine, "authentic" carbonara changes with every chef that makes it.
Wednesday would have been Frank Sinatra’s 92nd birthday, and at least one of the Chairman’s old haunts, the occasion won’t pass unobserved. Frank’s favorite New York restaurant, Patsy’s (no relation to the pizza chain), will be serving “Frank’s stuffed artichoke,” “Frank’s veal cutlet Milanese” (“Frank had it made easy on the garlic,” Patsy’s chef Sal Scognamillo tells us), and sfolgiatella, Frank’s favorite dessert, on Wednesday (the last course is on the house). Sal is a font of Sinatra anecdotes, too, and will be on hand to repeat a few of them. If you see him, ask about the night in 1977 when the Yankees came in after winning the World Series, and Billy Martin wanted to know why he didn’t have the best table.
Last we heard, white truffles were going for about $3,400 a pound. If we know, the chefs certainly do, which makes the following story so awful: It seems that a certain well-known chef came into one of the city’s top Italian restaurants recently and having announced himself, proceeded to order a tasting menu — with lots of truffles. Course after course came out, including several with the prized shavings on them, each one described in person by the restaurant’s equally famous chef. But when it came time to present the bill, the visitor wouldn’t pay it, claiming to be just a hardworking fellow cook. After much fury in the kitchen, and to avoid a further scene, the chef's truffles were comped. He received a nominal bill of a $130 for the feast and tipped $20.
That’s all we can say, we’re afraid, but if you have any guesses as to who the parties involved might be, feel free to make them in the comments. If you get it right, we will nod knowingly here at our desk.
Earlier:Have White Truffles Finally Gone Too Far?
On the list of people we want to see destroyed, the recently returned Tuscan tourist ranks high. Everyone has met this person. Nothing is quite the same as it is in Italy; “the pasta we have here just doesn’t compare ” “the ingredients are handled with such simplicity ” and blah blah blah. Meanwhile, they have the same flour, olive oil, and wooden spoons in both places, so what’s the big deal? We aim to find out this week, when “Five Days to Taste Tuscany’s Maremma” hits New York.
We like football. We like seasonal vegetables, especially peas. We like Cuban sandwiches, and Italian food, and Mexican food, and new things to start the fall with. So we liked this week’s batch of food stories in the magazine, especially since it includes what passes for a glowing review by Adam Platt of BLT Market, despite his readiness to mock the Haute Barnyard movement and all that it stands for. Add in the intriguing Italian-Mexican hybrid Matilda, announced by Rob and Robin in openings, and a guide to football bars even Tom Coughlin would approve of, and it’s another first-class food issue of New York.
The corner of Avenue B and 11th Street has a troubled history for restaurants. Paolina, despite fresh, authentic, inexpensive Italian food, went out of business there, and then Matt Hamilton’s Uovo, despite favorable reception, also closed, thanks to its lack of a liquor license. Now comes a third try, La Scarpetta, a traditional Puglian restaurant from Pasquale Martinelli. Martinelli was the chef at Bellavitae, a restaurant beloved by Adam Platt, so there’s some hope, but at the current East Village rents, and with the presence of something approaching a curse, we have to wonder if it will play. Fate has to be kind, but if we were Martinelli, we’d be more worried about the community board. They’re throwing liquor licenses around these days like they were manhole covers.
“I get a kick out of things that are so easy,” says Jody Williams, whose raw-artichoke salad at Morandi basically consists of the vegetable, some lemon juice, olive oil, and good cheese. Sometimes, especially in Italian cooking, the smartest thing a chef can do is get out of the way. Williams demonstrates the best possible method for making a perfect, simple summer dish in this Grub Street video.
Related: In Season: Local Artichokes [NYM]
Usually, when a restaurant announces that it’s closing for dinner service, whitewashed windows and snarky obits aren’t far off. But there’s reason to think that Dani, which we’ve learned will be closing at 6 p.m. between now and Labor Day, might not be in such dire straits.
Iacopo Falai impressed a lot of experienced eaters when he opened Falai, his small, eponymous restaurant on the Lower East Side, catching them off-guard with his very modern take on Italian food. This foie gras appetizer, rare enough on Italian menus, comes from out of left field. “There are more contrasting flavors and textures in this dish than any foie gras dish on the planet,” Falai boasts. “Start with the croquette and go clockwise. It’s warm and should be eaten right away. The chocolate I’d like to be last, because it gives a strong, savory end to the dish. There’s so much interaction here for the customer to discover.” As always, mouse over the different elements to read them described in Falai’s own words.
Iron Chef America fans know Anne Burrell as Mario Batali’s sous-chef on the show. (Spotted Pig customers know her as a regular.) The question now is whether she can actually cook when not doing Super Mario’s bidding. Her Centro Vinoteca is opening up this week with recognizably Batalian food: plenty of pork, robust flavors, and the kind of “why not” aesthetic that results in, say, deep-fried gnocchi in lamb ragù (“they’re like tater tots,” the chef says) or a poussin crusted with pancetta and rosemary paste.
It’s gotten to the point that we’re surprised when a small-time Manhattan institution doesn’t close. The sign on the door of Pasticceria Bruno is a familiar read: the complaint about rising costs, the shout-out to a “community” that hardly exists anymore, and of course, the angry sign-off. Happily, Bruno has another location on La Guardia, so we don’t have to go for the rest of our lives without those fantastic pignoli cookies. But Bruno was one more little bit of the old Village that we now have to watch turn into what? A Chipotle? A microbrewery? Whatever it is, we’re already inclined not to like it.
Related: Impending Jewish-Bakery Apocalypse?
The team that brought us Cacio e Pepe in the East Village and Spiga on the Upper West Side has expanded its Italian empire yet again, converting Gramercy’s short-lived Ora into the sleek new Bocca. Alessandro Peluso and his chef-partner Salvatore Corea serve what they call creative Roman cuisine — or at least their interpretation of it, meaning a combination of regional classics like their signature cacio e pepe pasta (ritualistically tossed in a giant wheel of Parmesan) and straccetti di manzo, ragged strips of beef, alongside innovations like shrimp with buffalo-ricotta fondue. The Roman theme is subtly echoed in the décor, which incorporates a reproduction of the city’s Mouth of Truth sculpture, along with the obligatory poster of Fellini’s Roma. And Peluso is particularly proud of the bar, where he presides over a list of Italian-inspired cocktails, like the Pimm’s No. 1–spiked Chinotto Cup. As at their first two restaurants, Corea’s savory slant toward dessert is on display in dolci like basil panna cotta with tomato coulis — a caprese salad of sorts for sweet tooths. —Rob Patronite and Robin RaisfeldBocca, 39 E. 19th St., nr. Park Ave. S.; 212-387-1200.