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Bruni Revisits Fiamma, Gives Restaurateurs New Bruni Problem

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The unspoken truth about review-caliber restaurants in New York, those that will get at least one visit from the Times top dog when they open, is that they tend to dress-up and price-down their menus until the critic has been through and filed his review. If the review goes well, even if the restaurant just gets an enthusiastic one star, $11 salads become $15 salads and $28 entrees become $34 entrees, and the accountants start to care deeply about ingredient costs. Fiamma, for example, was awarded a huge three stars by Frank Bruni, which is exactly the review for which it was looking. And per the playbook of a top notch restaurateur, Steve "The Full" Hanson then raised prices and began taking a closer look at costs. But, today—here's the twist—the Bruni went back.

Making good use of the second half of the Times "Restaurants" page, The Frank Revisited Fiamma:

The meal that three companions and I recently ate — including a novel carpaccio using Australian wagyu beef; a sensationally rich lasagna packed with porcini mushrooms; and a thick duck breast with a glistening slab of foie gras beside it — was excellent, its quality not necessarily out of line with its cost.

But it didn’t erase my concern that during the period when critics and diners were taking the measure of a new menu and chef, Fiamma perhaps set its prices at a level lower than it intended to keep them.

And it didn’t eliminate the need to let readers know that Fiamma is a decidedly more expensive restaurant than I and others had reported.

Certainly, if these filings continue, they're a small but not insignificant victory for high-end restaurant enthusiasts. But for the restaurateurs, behold: a whole new reason to fear and loathe the Bruni.
· Revisiting Fiamma [NYT]

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