Ben Stiller Crashes a Party at Fiamma, Penélope Cruz Makes Out at
Every Friday a notable New Yorker tells us where they’ve been eating, but where are the rest of them chowing down? Starting this week we’ll sort through the gossip columns à la Ils Vont (RIP) to tell you who’s been seen where (casual sightings only — boring galas, vodka launches, and pluggy appearances don’t count). We’ll eventually compile a ranking of restaurants most often visited by celebs. Not that you care about that sort of thing! Oh, but if you do, won’t you please leave your own sightings in the comments?
Back of the House
Nello Said to Teach Artist a Thing or Two About Overcharging Connoisseurs of bad art and worse restaurants will get a charge from a story in today’s Post about Nello Balan and his run-in with artist Jerome Lucani. There are so many levels of absurdity to this that it would take Nathaniel West to do it justice, but let’s start with the basics: Balan, who owns restaurants catering to stodgy plutocrats, allegedly agreed to front the money for Lucani to produce hideous celebrity photomontages in exchange for a 40 percent cut on sales. Lucani claims that Balan is “keeping [his] paintings hostage” and demanded a $500,000 fee plus a 50-50 split on sales. Now that’s how you do business!
Nello Buys ‘Page Six’ on the Cheap; Jody Williams Trying Not toNello’s Nello Ballan gives Richard Johnson a $1,000 gift, and fifteen “Page Six” mentions of Ballan’s restaurant later, the embattled gossip column has the devil to pay. [NYT]
Jody Williams claims not to have read Frank Bruni’s review of Morandi, though she knows that people are laying odds on the date of her departure. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]
Related: Not So Bene [NYM]
Restaurant-industry lobbyists express a not-unexpected disappointment with the federal minimum-wage increase passed by Congress, finding it “entirely out of place” in a war-spending bill. [Nation’s Restaurant News]
Back of the House
Waiter, There’s a Fly in My $750 SteakChecking the Health Department’s Website for violations is a melancholy enterprise. It can make you wish for a rain to come and wash all the taco stand and no-name diner scum away. But it can also serve as a reminder of the rottenness of the upper crust.
How a $750 Entrée Will Fill the Aching Void in Your LifeUpper East Side grandees are fond of each other’s company and eat at restaurants like Nello to make sure they get it. Why else would anyone pay $22 for a celery heart or $38 for spaghetti with clam sauce? But we thought that even the lonely and ultrarich might balk at the new $750 Kobe steak that, according to “Page Six,” the restaurant is now serving. Given that the best of these steaks seldom top $125 in town, how can Nello justify the price? “It’s a small quantity of product that’s available,” owner Nello Balan tells us, as if that justified anything more than the going rate. “They distribute it all over from Moscow to Paris to New York. It’s a novelty.” A novelty it may be to Balan’s crowd, but the rest of New York has pretty much gotten the whole Kobe thing by now. And yet, there’s no arguing with Nello’s results: “We sell ten or fifteen a day.” At least the rich aren’t always getting richer.
Steer Heaven [NYP]