1) Just when you thought it was safe to let the kids out of the house, to take Steve Cuozzo's picture down from your spot-the-reviewer bulletin board in the kitchen, he strikes. His prey: Morandi, which, at just one month old, is too new for the formal reviews (except, see below, Hodgson), but not for The Cuozz's brand of banter:
...Morandi, far from conjuring the real Italy, looks like a suburban replica of an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village. Pastis-like banquettes seem grafted on. Brick arches look embarrassingly new in a neighborhood of authentically old interiors. The Chianti bottles actually have straw baskets.But here's the nugget: "A waiter asked if it was our first visit. Told that it was, he said, "Congratulations" without a touch of irony." [NYP]
The most annoying inauthenticity lies on the menu, which is thick as the house brick with floperoos. In a town full of casual trattorias, you wouldn't even notice Morandi's also-ran lineup if it were not in a McNally place.
Bonus: Moira Hodgson was also at Morandi this week and had a much better, two star, time: "At Morandi, Ms. Williams continues with her particular zesty style of regional Italian cooking, bringing many of the dishes she served at Gusto: fried artichokes with crackling, bronzed leaves; plump, soft meatballs laced with pine nuts and raisin in a thick tomato sauce; and luscious fried green olives rolled in breadcrumbs, stuffed with pork and cheese....You’ll want to taste everything on this menu." [NYO]
2) Over to Frank Bruni for his reluctantly one star take on Varietal. All in, the Bruni Show is moving on:
Upside-down wineglasses hang from the center of the sleek dining room’s ceiling, where a few photographs of glistening grapes adorn mostly blank walls. Scores of wines are available by the glass, and three-wine tasting flights permit comparisons of Spanish reds or chardonnays from different countries.Also, Bruni really really didn't like Jordan Kahn's desserts ("Jackson Pollock would have been pleased"). Overall, it could of gone worse, of course. Nevertheless, this is the part of the story where owner Gregory Hockenberry reviews his staffing costs. [NYT]
A large lounge in front and a long bar nearby provide comfortable perches for tasting expeditions, which can be complemented with small plates — fingerling potatoes with paddlefish caviar; lamb terrine with lotus crisps — from a special menu. And those expeditions are facilitated by servers who know the inventory and how to talk about it.
But while drinking at Varietal is a delight, eating is a more complicated proposition — exciting if you hit the best dishes, exasperating if you don’t.
3) And in the three-hole today, we've got Adam Platt's take one star take on Waverly Inn:
For a semi-private club, it’s not bad. For a public restaurant, it could be better, although if you’re Graydon Carter and a place like this opened a few doors down from your own townhouse, you wouldn’t be too upset...In sum, he likes it, but he'll be damned if he's going to admit that to Graydon Carter. [NYM]
Is it worth fighting your way inside for a little bite? Maybe just once. When the Waverly finally opens for business, the food won’t taste half as good.
Elsewhere, Robert Sietsema at Williamsburg tacqueria Kiosco Piaxtla, Meehan at Brooklyn Chinatown's new dim sum den Pacificana, Paul Adams on the UWS at Kefi, Strongbuzz calls lunch 'off the charts' at Gramercy Tavern, TONY on the reinvention tour at 15 East and Sushi Sumile, Tables for Two at Park Slope's Amorina, Sutton drops the early word on Ed's and Natsumi, Gotham Gal at 'the total ultimate 14 year old experience' Gotham Bar and Grill, and the one and only Restaurant Girl at The InnLW12.