This week Pete Wells visits Upland, to see how Justin Smillie's doing now that he's under the wing of Stephen Starr. Back when Smillie was the chef at Il Buco Alimentari, Wells shocked quite a few people by bestowing three stars on the rather unassuming cafe. So how does his cooking stack up here?
His pastas can be tried and true, like the firm and well-peppered bucatini slick with tangy pecorino or the long, star-shaped tubes called estrella tossed with a just-right sauté of chicken livers with rosemary and sage. Or they may surprise you, like the spicy spaghettini that get their potent oceanic flavor from invisible baby sardines. Either way, they're further confirmation that Mr. Smillie is one of the city's pasta savants.
Wells also notes that Smillie is a "vegetable sage," but that the famous short rib he brought over from Alimentari lost a little in translation (and in lack of a rotisserie). But all in all, Upland earns a solid two stars.