Pete Wells follows-up his tiny restaurant twofer this week by filing on Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich's colossal restaurant La Sirena. The Chelsea space boasts two dining rooms, a massive "jet runway" bar in between, and an over 100-seat patio, prompting Wells to wonder if the restaurant's large scale allows room for mistakes, especially after it made a very big one:
It’s hard to keep all the billiard balls in motion at once. Even when they’re moving, it’s not easy to make them roll in the right direction, as Mr. Batali and I discussed in an email exchange after somebody on his staff served breadsticks to my son, who, we’d explained to two of our servers, has a serious sesame allergy.
The substitute bread had seeds on the inside, as Wells soon found out. Later in the review, Wells notes:
Mr. Batali emailed me later that night. After I described the episode and let him know that the reaction had subsided before it got serious, he replied that he was apologetic and frustrated. His company, B&B Hospitality Group, has a full-time specialist in safety and environmental concerns who instructs all the food handlers on allergy protocols. After the incident at my table, Mr. Laurano also met with the staff to review procedures.
Wells explain that the incident was only made worse when management became involved and did not attempt to find out what happened. Still, the Times critic has high-praise for many of executive chef Josh Laurano's dishes:
Lasagna is layered with al dente wheels of waxy potato and a pesto as vibrant as if the basil had been picked 10 minutes ago. Tomatoes braised with spare ribs make a compelling sauce of ridged mini-torpedoes of cavatelli. Bucatini with bites of octopus, right on the border between firm and tender, have a tomato sauce with that low murmur of chile heat Mr. Batali’s restaurants are so adept at delivering.
The rest of the menu tends to play it safe, and some dishes like linguine with clams are likened to eating on Mulberry Street. But overall, the critic thinks La Sirena deserves two stars.