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On How to Read Your Restaurant Coverage: Maremma

[Photograph by Eater photographic correspondent Noah Kalina]

A congratulations is in order for Jennifer Brunn and Katherine Bryant of the venerable PR firm Bullfrog & Baum. In case you haven't noticed, their press campaign for Maremma is going quite well. From NY Mag to Daily Candy, they've gotten the ink that matters. (Tomorrow we'll see if they hit it out of the park with an Off The Menu hit.) Unfortunately for you, this means that while they get a basket of very old balsamic vinegar and extra extra virgin olive oil from Cesare, you get pitifully homogenous coverage of a new venue. (And, in a city where 5-10 restaurants open a week, you get to read about the same ones over and over again.) But the silver lining here is that by comparing the various items that have run, you get to see who's providing you with real, live information and who's just cutting and pasting from Jen and Katherine's well-written press release.

Are you ready to find out who most covets their slots on B&B's Friends and Family invite list?

First of all, there were a couple of publications that did not pretend to be issuing critical analysis. Because they were in it for the brass tacks, we ever so slightly tip our caps to them. They received a press release from a well-known company and in a Pavlovian way began cutting and pasting. Strong, The Post, Mug, at least you didn't have to exert effort as you made your weekly selection of openings to cover. Combined, these publications provided zero information that was not on the restaurant's official press release; but, yes, we did get that info efficiently.

2005_07_maremma_juli.gifAmong the sources that provided editorial coverage of the opening, both NY Mag and Juli B did so with a modicum of class, each adding to the critical dialog. NY Mag reported, "But despite the ominous presence of Rocky Mountain oysters with ranch dressing, Casella retains his signature herb-stewn style." Under seventy-five words total and still some take away. Nice work, Moss.

Ditto for Juli B (of all places, we have to say), where they were actually critical of the venue. They provided a, gasp, lukewarm review of their experience:

Saddle up for the "wild bill cody" (pappardelle), or "earn your spurs" (ribs), but pass on the fried chicken. Maremma's a locale considered to be the wild west of Italy. Ranchers, Cattle. You get the point. Sure, white wainscotting and cattle horn would have worked better for the restaurant. But one bite of the marscapone cheesecake and you'll give a rat's asphalt about art. Especially when you notice the Babbo-branded wine on the list. (courtesy of Cesare's pals.)

Did you see how they identified both good and bad elements of the place? Jules, here's lookin' at you, kid.

2005_07_maremma_dc.jpgAnd then there's the behemoth Daily Candy, who recommended such dishes as the Sloppy Gio (in the release), Mess Kit (release, check), Coyote (ditto), and Wild Bill Cody (blah blah verbatim from the release). Then, they pointed out the planters along the staircase alternating rosemary with cactus, a design element that was, wait for it, in the press release. They did say, however that they enjoyed the Caldaro and that Casella's boots are made in Italy, two things we wouldn't have known having read only the press materials. And, to their credit, they provided the only interior of the restaurant we've seen to date.

Which brings us back to Jennifer and Katherine (who, incidentally, has an issue with her 'reply' button) and the wonderful work they did. Of the at least six well-read publications that had ink on this totally bizzare opening, only two -- Juli B and NY Mag -- could find the backbone to print a single negative word about a venue whose food is best described as either Tex/Ital or Spaghetti Western. Good to know.
· Official Press Release (pdf) [Bullfrog & Baum]
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