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Puzzled Pete Wells Tries to Make Sense of Italienne

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He settles on one star for the six-month-old Italian restaurant

Nick Solares

In a special, one-day-early review, takes-no-prisoners New York Times critic Pete Wells heads to Italienne — the French-Italian restaurant from chef Jared Sippel — homing in on his number one issue with the restaurant: It’s confused. Ever witty, Wells likens the six-month-old restaurant to “somebody who starts to tell you a joke about a priest, a rabbi and an imam in a rowboat and ends up talking about Maimonidean law.”

The restaurant is separated into two spaces, a casual front tavern with a more upscale back dining room — which is where Wells thinks Sippel has gone wrong.

These party-in-the-front, business-in-the-back setups are complex propositions. They’re not hot-dog stands. Mr. Sippel has made a tough job tougher by taking on two countries and more than one style of cooking, and layering the formal-casual split on top.

As for the food,for every hit there’s a miss. While Wells enjoyed the “delicate” cabbage-and-bread dumplings in the tavern, he was met with “flavorless” frog legs in the dining room. An “inspired” oat bavarois veined with chocolate ganache in the dining room met its match in the tavern’s baba au rhum, which “tasted like a two-day-old coconut doughnut that had been accidentally splashed with liquor at the bar.”

Though Wells did enjoy some dishes and one full meal at Italienne, he concludes that the restaurant needs to combine its best parts and shed its worst.

Some of the food at Italienne made me want to dance on the table. Some of it made me want to hide under the table and wait for the lights to go out so I could leave without making eye contact. My three meals might have come from three different restaurants. I would settle for one where the ideas had been worked out. At the moment, that is the Taverna.

One star.


19 West 24th Street, New York, NY