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Week in Reviews: Bar Stuzzichini Gets Its Star

Bar Stuzzichini, by photog Noah Kalina, 6/21/07.

1) Frank Bruni and Adam Platt do a duet for us this week, with both critics filing on Bar Stuzzichini (Bruni, Platt). Bruni has one star for the place and Platt two, though Platt's is on his five-star scale. Universally acknowledged is the venue's somewhat underdog, under-hyped status, and the virtues of the bar seats. Both also note how well simplicity in cooking works for the joint. Bruni:

The kitchen, supervised by Paul Di Bari, whose pan-ethnic experience includes stints at Wallsé and Balthazar, doesn’t take big risks and may not be capable of them, especially given the restaurant’s scale...But when it’s operating smoothly, the outcomes are impressive: pliant gnocchi in a perky sauce of tomato, red pepper and guanciale;..
And the Platt: "what the restaurant lacks in style it makes up for with the easy, even artful simplicity of its cooking." We do have one problem though. Bruni says the word stuzzichini is derived from the verb stuzzicare, or "to provoke." The Platt has another take on the etymology, that the word is from the verb stuzzichare, or "to pick." Gentlemen, discuss and sort that out, svp. [NYT, NYM]

Bonus: Both Platt and the Bruni drop several other new Italians into their reviews. The Platt does it formally, awarding one star to Gemma. The Bruni goes the incidental mentions route, including Gemma and Centro Vinoteca.

2) We're somewhat hesitant to give Randall Lane this space again, after his four star shill effort last week for Wakiya, but this week the guy braves both Southern Hospitality and Johnny Utah's. No surprises are about to come your way, but the read is fun nevertheless. It's three-of-six for Southern Hospitality, Justin Timberlake's barbecue joint on the Upper East Side: "Timberlake’s Upper East Side spot is little more than a sports bar—flat screens everywhere, deafening rock and a faux roadhouse vibe akin to Brother Jimmy’s a block away. Yet there’s a line out the door of rubes who seemingly hope that Cameron Diaz, or perhaps at least Lance Bass, might be here, munching corn bread while watching the Yankees game." And on Johnny Utah's, the bar with the mechanical bull, which gets one-of-six: "I took my turn, hung in for a good 30 seconds, then got violently thrown, which also describes my dining experience. The food combines barbecue, Mexican, Tex-Mex and any other cuisine that could possibly justify a cowboy hat...Johnny Utah’s fails miserably at all of them." [TONY]

3) Danyelle "Restaurant Girl" Freeman is at Wakiya this week and gives it one out of four RG stars. There's a lot of bad -- see also, the Peking Duck and the Alice in Wonderland style 'exhaustive set of warnings' -- but here's the good:

Wakiya and his entourage of chefs manage to achieve excellence with fresh shrimp and chive dumplings, as well as corpulent crab dumplings. With a Sunday dim sum menu on the horizon, Wakiya may actually emerge an attractive - albeit expensive - dim sum brunch alternative.
If you're keeping score, this is the second time in four weeks she's filed on a restaurant trying to insist that it's still previews, which you do have to give the lady points for. [NYDN]

Elsewhere, in the Dining Briefs Marian Burros feeling Accademia di Vino and Bruni not feeling the service at Borough Food & Drink; Paul Adams proving noodles are trendier than Asian tapas at Ramen Setagaya and Oriental Spoon; Robert Sietsema seeing God in the lesso misto con condimenti tipico at Insieme; Tables for Two at Marlow & Sons; and Moira Hodgson has two stars for Abbe Diaz's boyfriend's Centro Vinoteca.

On the blogs, Please don't pass the nuts with the allergy report on Pylos, Big Apple Dining Guide feeling Insieme, NY Journal absolutely appalled by Park Avenue Summer, Levine flags Ouest's gnocchi as top-five in the city, and Brooklyn Paper in Ft. Greene at Epoca.

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