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Week in Reviews: Morandi Ekes Out a Star

1) The people call it right, and Frank Bruni awards Morandi one star, thereby keeping the world on its axis—and Jody Williams in the Morandi kitchen. Funny thing, though, this baby reads a helluva lot like a goose egg:

Morandi’s incarnation of a trattoria suggests something more like amusement with Italy. The restaurant strikes an odd tone, starting with the recorded voice on the phone line, as broadly accented as that of Father Guido Sarducci on an old episode of “Saturday Night Live,” and extending to row upon row of straw-bottomed Chianti bottles lining the walls. Is this tribute or burlesque?

Against the hackneyed backdrop Ms. Williams’s menu — including fritto misto, vitello tonnato, bucatini cacio e pepe and a gargantuan veal chop smothered in prosciutto and fontina — sometimes plays less like a loving repertory of classics than a failure of imagination and nerve. Most food-savvy New Yorkers have repeatedly encountered dishes like these in a setting of cheeky rusticity like this, and that compels the Morandi kitchen to perform at a higher, more consistent level than it does.

But. BUT: "Even so, the food has been getting a worse rap than it deserves." Ladies and gentlemen, we'll see you at Morandi. [NYT]

2) Robert Sietsema gets the honor of being the first of the heavy hitters to file on Fette Sau. The 'cue:

What about the 'cue? The brisket can be spectacular, sliced thick and rimmed with crisp fat. The pork short ribs ($11 half rack, $22 full rack) are tasty, but a bit dry and hammy due to oversmoking. One evening, shredded lamb was a big hit with my crew; it was fragrant with the odor of pasturage. Sometimes—according to the chalkboard menu, which promises more than it can deliver—there are baseball-bat beef ribs, which I didn't get to try. The pork sausages are smoky and greasy, but too chunky inside for my taste.
Final thought/cocktail party chatter point: the flank steak is 'damn good.' [VV]

3) And, finally, Adam Platt visits Donatella Arpaia and Michael Psilakis' new place Anthos and finds two stars for the dressed-down Greek restaurant.

Anthos, which occupies a boxy, innocuous space among the towers of midtown (there’s a standard bar up front, a large mirror in the back, and white walls decorated with paintings of random, un-Greek cherry blossoms), feels like a curious jumble of these previous restaurants. It’s more upscale than Kefi but less elaborately produced than Dona, with a shorter menu and a more straightforward culinary focus.

The culinary focus at Anthos is Greece, of course, though whether Psilakis’s grandmother (he grew up in a Greek-American family on Long Island) would recognize anything on her plate is doubtful.

Also, "[c]ompared with other glamorous Donatella Arpaia productions (Dona, davidburke & donatella), there is a flatness to the proceedings at Anthos, a curious dearth of fabulousness to the room." This is all to say that he likes Donatella Arpaia, the lady, doesn't so much like Anthos, her restaurant. [NYM]

Bonus: Moira Hodgson is at Anthos as well, and notes that the kitchen needs time to get into a groove: "The first time I came here, the dining room was half empty, and we had a three-star meal (I would come back just for that turbot with fried eggplant and cipollini in a rich, aged balsamic sauce, and the grilled octopus with olives and an orange purée.)...Another night, the restaurant was full and, judging by the unevenness of the dishes that came out, the kitchen felt the pressure." Double Bonus: Paul Adams for the Sun is on the fence as well. [NYO; NYS]

Elsewhere, Alan Richman head-over-heeels for 15 East, Randall Lane four-of-six-stars Ed's Lobster Bar, Gael Greene smitten with East Village's Tree, Ruth Reichl finds city's best lasagna at Insieme, Andrea Strong in Park Slope at Palo Santo, Tables on the UWS at Spiga, Sutton with the early word on Landmarc [TWC] and Gold St., Scoboco at MePa's The InnLW12, and Nosh not at all pleased with Gold St.

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