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Good News/ Bad News: Emporio

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It's been nearly two months since Aurora owner Riccardo Buitoni opened Emporio's rustic doors at the failed InTent space in Nolita, plenty of time for reviewers to weigh in on the qualified success of bringing authentic Italian to Little Italy. So far, the verdict seems pretty evenly split between those who see this as a doomed, "kitchey" experiment and those who can't wait to head back for more "fresh ingredients." An area of mutual agreement: the space itself is rustic, yet warm. On to the polarized responses:

The Suspiciously Good News: Gourmet fawns over everything from the decor to the risotto: "I hate the menu at the new sort-of-Roman downtown restaurant called Emporio—hate it because choosing just a few things from it is all but impossible. Whipped baccalà with crispy polenta; roasted beets with pickled onion and smoked ricotta; risotto with wild mushrooms and fava beans—how to decide? Offhandedly excellent pizza with Tuscan kale, guanciale, and pecorino cream; exquisite Frascati-braised rabbit with olives? This is vivid, confident, often unusual Italian cooking." [Gourmet]

The Good News: A Menupages reviewer feels pretty positive about everything he tried: "Want to give them high praise - an ambitious menu chock full of fresh ingredients (with a clear emphasis on the quality and sourcing of said ingredients). The fried artichokes and the eggplant antipasta are must trys - the pizza in the wood burning oven was fantastic, and the pastas were tasty and well though out, particularly the canneloni. I will be going back, hopefully while it is still BYOB (they don't have a liquor license yet)." [Menupages]

The Not So Good News: A Yelper gives an A for effort, but sees a few problems: "Emporio is trying. They are trying really hard, maybe too hard. The food was good, but a little a heavy- especially for a place opening in the Spring. The daily specials followed the same heavy style as the regular menu (lamb, rabbit, veal, etc.) so there was no relief there. The service was on their best behavior, taking away plates the minute you finished and swooping in pre-prepared salads and desserts 1 minute after you ordered them (this is no joke). The decor and overall vibe is very nice. Not unlike Aurora- it actually had a very similar feel. Its BYO for now, but be aware they charge you a $20 corking fee after the table's first bottle." [Yelp]

The Bad News: Another Menupages user sees little to be excited about, with the exception of a few apps: "Emporio is the latest in the kitchey faux-Italian dining scene. Although the ingredients seem to be more or less good, bland, oily, and a little overpriced pretty much sums up the majority of the dishes. The squash blossoms are probably the only redeeming item on the menu, although some of the other appetizers aren't too bad. There are far better options for Italian food in the Lower East Side, keep your eyes out - my guess is Emporio won't be around for too long after the novelty wears thin." [Menupages]

The Rave: A Blackbook commenter has a rave: "Aside from the cuisine being nothing shy of spectacular (the scallops were mind-blowing), it’s certainly worth nothing that they opened their doors prior to getting their liquor license. Thus, it’s BYOB until that happens. Quail and pancetta, thin-crust pizza, scallops, and the nutella, hazelnut & mascarpone calzone only ran us $60 + the bottle of red we brought with us." [BB]
—Matt Duckor

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