Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Does Puck Make "The Cut"?

Get Ready For Dinner and a Show in Los Angeles

I’ve imagined a lot of restaurant interiors in my lifetime… and had the opportunity to work with my wife Jami designing two of my own restaurants… one, a Cajun crabshack nestled into Chicago’s Gold Coast (Beignet’s Louisiana Kitchen) ; the other a Spanish tapas room in Baton Rouge’s reborn downtown district (The Lava Room).

My days of owning and operating restaurants are gone for good (ok, never say never)… but my appreciation for beautiful spaces continues to flourish.

Last week I had the opportunity to dine at the highly anticipated “CUT” Steakhouse, the uber-cool creation of Chef Wolfgang Puck and legendary architect Richard Meier.

Upon entering the space, it was obvious that the design team was going for “wow”, and most often, that’s what they get.

This place doesn’t look like any steakhouse I’ve ever seen. It’s a California cool space washed in pure whites and natural light. Instead of dark mahogany booths you get blond teakwood. Clubby leather chairs give way to Knoll-style chrome and mesh, and the amenities are clean and well appointed. Imagine having dinner in the Design Within Reach showroom. Or the lobby of MOMA.

It was a nice change.

For me, it’s always been about the food, and CUT does many things very well… and they have to. Being located in the Regent Beverly Wilshire (A Four Seasons Property) comes with a price tag, and believe you me, this place ain’t cheap. Not that a quality steakhouse should be… but there is expensive… and also “holy crap this is expensive.”

You’ll be hard pressed to find a dish on this menu you recognize, other than the steaks themselves, which nearly all come bone-in. This is fine by me, as bone-in usually means more flavor… but when you are dropping $48 on a piece of meat, you’re expecting something special.

Apps here can be eventful and silly at the same time. The Kobe Beef Sashimi is a popular choice and is solid. A classic steak tartare also makes an appearance. There is Warm Veal Tongue and Maple Glazed Pork Belly for those more adventurous, and an Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese dish for those who aren’t. In the middle, you have a wide variety of options including a Lobster and Crab “Louie” cocktail, Foie Gras and a Bone Marrow Flan which steals the show. It’s a nice selection… but at an average price of $20, be careful. You haven’t ordered the wine yet.

Kobe beef, as well American Waygu made an appearance in the US several years ago, and both continue to build momentum. Both varieties are available at CUT, and both come with a steep price. While a 6oz American Waygu can start around $60, the Japanese Kobe will set you back $120 for an 6oz New York Strip… and $160 for an 8oz Ribeye.


But is it worth it?

Good question. To me, no…. as I love the flavor of USDA Prime Beef, cooked perfectly. Sure, the Kobe stuff cuts like butter and tastes the same, but as unique as that taste is… it’s not the hearty steak I’ve come to know and love. Should you try it once? Absolutely. Would I serve it at a holiday BBQ?


Steaks come with a variety of sauces, and I’m fairly sure every sauce on the planet is represented. From Mustard, to Chimichurri, to Bernaise, to Foie Gras “Rossini” style, and extra $2 will aid you in covering the taste of the steak you just mortgaged your house to buy.

The sides are delicious but still sides. The Swiss Chard is exceptional, and the fingerling potatoes “Lyonnaise” interesting. There are also mushrooms galore as well as Potato Tarte Tatin.

For those who aren’t as fond of red meat as I, there is a nice selection of fish dishes including Sea Bass, Big Eye Tuna and lobster… and a few pork and duckling offerings to make you pause. The best non-steak option may very well be the Veal “Holstein Schnitzel” with capers and fried egg. This is a dish Puck does better than any chef in America.

So good in fact, that I made a special trip to his Las Vegas eatery “Postrio” several years ago to eat it. It’s offered at lunch on the patio, and served with spaetzle and warm potato salad… maybe I’ll save this one for another time.

By the time you’ve reached dessert you are full… which is a shame, because the desserts looked amazing. On top of that, about this time the place becomes flooded with the jet set. On the way out, I rubbed shoulders with a supermodel and Don Rickles. Only in LA.

So, the verdict?

It’s good. Pretty. Fun. Expensive.

But in the end, I couldn’t figure out of we were paying for the meal… or the show. The cooler than all get out room, the tableside raw meat presentation, or just the honor of sitting in a Meier space eating stuff.

You will likely find a better steak down the street, but I must admit the space can be intoxicating… and for those who live the scene in LA, this is your joint.

Enjoy it. And bring lots of cash.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I Can Close My Eyes and Smell The Gumbo On The Stove

Monday night the New Orleans Saints will take the field against the Atlanta Falcons in the Louisiana Superdome. Nearly 70,000 Louisianians will gather and unite for something they truly love. Cheering on their Saints.

There will be precious little girls in black and gold cheerleading uniforms. Rough and crusty oyster fishman. A grandma sticking voodoo dolls with long stick pins. A guy dressed like the pope.

The concession stands will sell Popeye's Fried Chicken, Red Beans and Rice and Jambalaya.

And when the Saints emerge from the tunnel and enter the field, there will be tears.

To think what happened in that building just a year ago, this evening is somewhat of a miracle... and a rebirth.

A year after the events of Hurricane Katrina, I still have problems talking about it.

Unlike many people I meet in New York who can comment about what happened and what went wrong, I have very different perspective.

I was there.

Living in my hometown of Baton Rouge, watching the winds rip tree branches from the oaks that surrounded my home… I knew this was a storm we would never forget.

As much as I would like to expound on what happened in the days and weeks after the hurricane, I would rather use that energy to talk about the great city of New Orleans, and the one-of-a-kind food shops and restaurants that have made it back.

Below is a short list of restaurants and dives that I literally grew up in. The food is unmistakably New Orleans, and the atmosphere the same. Some of them you may have heard of… many of them you have not.

I’ll be back in New Orleans in a few weeks, and intend on visiting as many of these places as I can. Next time you visit, I strongly urge you to do the same. With over 50% of the restaurants and cafes still closed and likely never to reopen, it is important to celebrate the few that have made it back… and welcome them with open arms.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do… I’ll see you at the bar.

Domilise Sandwich Shop & Bar
5240 Annunication Street , New Orleans, LA 70115

This small poboy shop in the garden district is the quintessential New Orleans dive. It also is the home of what many believe to be the best poboy in New Orleans… quite a statement. I tend to agree. The fried shrimp poboys are piled high with shredded lettuce and sour pickles, the crispy fried oysters sprinkled with fresh lemon and the roast beef, covered in rich beef gravy that is destined to drip down your forearms. This is the real deal… as the saying goes… as good as it gets.

Type of Establishment: American,Creole,Seafood,Po-Boys
Price Range: Inexpensive
Telephone: (504) 889-9126
Hours: Mon-Wed, Fri-Sat 10-7pm
Payments Accepted: Cash

Commerce Restaurant
300 Camp St. , New Orleans, LA 70130

Tradition, tradition. You know this place. Baskets of Tom’s crackers and breadsticks on the counter with a dish of butter pats. Paper napkins. Ice tea. This is that plate lunch joint that always has the stuff you wish you had made that day, but was just too much work (red beans, greens, gumbo, etc). I’ll bet you make friends with someone you’ve never met over lunch.

Type of Establishment: Bkft/Lunch,Creole,Seafood,Po-Boys
Price Range: Inexpensive
Telephone: (504) 561-9239
Hours: 6:00am to 2:30pm Monday – Friday

Johnny's Po-Boys

511 St. Louis Street , New Orleans, LA 70130

Likely the only place in the French Quarter where you can get a real poboy, and a good one at that. I lean towards the roast beef here, but in truth, they can all hold their own. These guys close early, so don’t procrastinate.

Type of Establishment: American,Po-Boys
Price Range: Inexpensive
Telephone: (504) 523-9883
Hours: 8:00am to 4:30pm Monday - Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm Saturday - Sunday
Payments Accepted: Cash

401 Poydras Street , New Orleans, LA 70130

Maybe the most famous poboy shop in the Big Easy, and the process reflect. Tourists come in droves, but truth be told so do many locales… as the black ham with debris poboy may be the best in town. If you have never been here, the long line that forms out the kitchen door may be worth your wait. Stick with the sandwiches and Red Beans on Mondays.

Type of Establishment: Creole,Cajun,Po-Boys
Price Range: Inexpensive
Telephone: (504) 523-9656
Hours: Mon-Sat 7:30am-8pm
Payments Accepted: American Express,Master Card,Visa,Cash

3232 N. Arnoult Road , Metairie, LA 70002

Words can’t describe Dragos. First, know that the BBQ Oyster was invented here. What is it? A fresh shucked oyster on half shell, topped with lemon, butter, garlic and cheeses, then grilled over a open BBQ until hot and bubbly. When you walk through the front door, you’ll see no less that 40 dozen stacked high… as every single table starts with at least a dozen. All the food is great, but don’t kid yourself… the oysters have people driving in from Mississippi.

Type of Establishment: Seafood
Price Range: Moderate
Telephone: (504) 888-9254
Hours: Mon-Fri 11-8:30pm; Sat 3-9pm
Payments Accepted: American Express,Master Card,Visa,Cash

R & O Restaurant

216 Old Hammond Hwy , Metairie, LA 70005

Maybe the most famous neighborhood joint in New Orleans, on the lakefront in Metarie. A classic dive, the food here is legendary…. Hot shrimp and oyster loaves, plates of spaghetti, boiled crabs and crawfish in season…. Ice cold Miller Lite. It’s a gem, and I know few people in South Louisiana who haven’t been there.

Type of Establishment: Italian,Pizza,Seafood,Po-Boys
Price Range: Moderate
Telephone: (504) 831-1248
Hours: Wed-Sat 11:30-3pm, 5:30-8:30pm
Payments Accepted: Master Card,Visa,Cash

430 Dauphine Street , New Orleans, LA 70112

Is it possible that Susan Spicer was the first to really succeed at Haute Creole commercially? I think so. And years after her magnificent Bayone opened in the Quarter, it continues to thrive. This is not a traditional creole joint as you or I know it… but an experience of all of the flavors we love, in a way you’ve never tasted. Long live Bayone, and the creative genius of Susan.

Type of Establishment: American,Creole,French
Price Range: Expensive
Telephone: (504) 525-4455
Hours: Tues-Sat 6pm; Wed-Fri 11:30-1:30pm
Payments Accepted: American Express,Master Card,Visa,Cash

Commander's Palace
1403 Washington Avenue , New Orleans, LA 70118

What can be said? This kitchen, as well as the watchful eye of Ella Brennan has spawned some of the nations finest chefs. The dishes at Commanders are as much of a staple as salt and pepper in any Louisiana kitchen, and the community embraces this institution unlike any other. You can still sip a .25 cent martini at lunch (or free is you are a woman eating alone) and the turtle soup has never been better. I’ve often been asked where I would eat my last meal, and without question, it would be here.

Type of Establishment: American,Creole,French,Cajun
Price Range: Expensive
Telephone: (504) 899-8221
Hours: 'til 9:45p Daily
Payments Accepted: American Express,Master Card,Visa,Cash

Irene's Cuisine
539 St. Philip Street , New Orleans, LA 70116

You can’t help but love Irene’s. It’s in restaurants like this one the Italian heritage of the city pours through, in spectacular fashion. When the creole and Italian flavors cross, you can understand the glory this culture…taking something great, and making it even better. Irene’s is a classic.

Type of Establishment: Creole,Italian
Price Range: Unknown
Telephone: (504) 529-8811
Hours: Mon-Sat 5:30-10pm
Payments Accepted: Master Card,Visa,Cash

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cafe D' Alsace: Worth The Trip

The Evolution of the Perfect NY French Bistro

New Yorkers have never had a problem locating a French bistro in a town brimming with international cuisine. From high end celebrity owned dining rooms to neighborhood eateries, finding the perfect plate of steak frites has become a rite of passage for the die hard NYC foodie.

I like my Steak Frites.

Since moving to New York, I’ve been impressed by the Tour De France NYC food group… a corporate gathering of 9 restaurants serving a variety of regional French fare. These include the very popular French Roast cafes (Parisian cuisine), L’ Express (Lyonnaise Cuisine), Maison (Cuisine of Brittany) and one of my UWS favorites, Nice Matin (Nicoise Cuisine).

Joining the family this year is a new star shining bright on the Upper East Side, Café D’Alsace… serving mainly Alsacienne fare.

First, getting to Café D’Alsace is simple. From the Upper West, you can fly across the park on the 86 bus and walk 2 blocks. If you find yourself in the neighborhood with time to spare, you’ll find Irish Pubs, German sausage shops and a variety of mom and pops with great stuff to eat and drink.

I love the look and feel of this place. It reminds me of numerous neighborhood joints in and around the Marais District in Paris… and that’s a good thing. It’s inside/outside setting makes the dinner experience even more special.

As far as hype, the Café launched with fanfare… but not pointing at it’s terrific food menu… but it’s beer selection. The beer listing is huge, and the selection is varied and eclectic. You’ll find many Café norms like Chimay and Stella… but you’ll also find micro-batch brews from Belgium, France and Germany. You can have some fun drinking your way through this menu.

As good as the beers are, the food is better. First, any place that has bone marrow on the menu has a warm place in my heart. But if bone marrow slathered on toast isn’t your thing, Café D’Alsace offers a dozen terrific apps including a simple Arugula Salad with roasted beets, a Foie Gras Terrine, a delicious cabbage and white bean soup, warm leeks with truffle oil and the dish I sampled… a warm Goat Cheese Tatin, that was out of this world.

It would be easy to plop down at Café D’Alsace and order the safe but outstanding plate of Steak Frites… but with fresh fish selections, lamb shanks with spaetzle, roasted Duck Breast, Wild Mushroom Ravioli and amazing homemade sausages (including duck, pork, seafood and boudin blanc) you may want to rethink your selection. Also available is a fantastic bistro burger with sweet onions and all the sides you’ve come to know and love when eating this type of fare.

Of course, the coffees are great… and have to be to keep up with an outstanding selection of desserts. Classic Crème Brulee, warm Brioche cake, Apple Tart, a decadent flourless chocolate cake… the list goes on and on. Throw in fresh sorbets and ice creams and you can expect a serious stomach ache.

As much as I love the UWS Nice Matin, I love Café D’Alsace even more. The neighborhood setting is a bit more gritty and unpretentious, the atmosphere even more authentic, and the food just downright great. I am guessing the neighborhood agrees… as the evening I ate there the place was jammed by 7:30.

Do yourself a favor, and hop on the bus, and get yourself up to the Upper East Side. Café D’Alsace is a slice of Europe in a charming spot… again proving that you don’t have to book a flight overseas to enjoy the best in euro eats. I’ll see you there.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Alain Ducasse: Simply Sublime

How exactly do you blog about a meal at Alain Ducasse?

It’s me, André… the guy who eats snap skin hot dogs and andouille gumbo. The guy who can get as excited about a carnitas burrito as a rack of lamb. Holy crap, I eat Kraft Mac n’ Cheese.

In the same breath I can say that I have experienced meals at some of the world’s finest restaurants… Chicago’s Charlie Trotter’s, Amsterdam’s Blue Pepper, Istanbul’s Kosebasi, Rome’s Vivendo and Toyko’s Aragawa. I get around.

Well. Last night in New York, I had a culinary experience I had yet to experience in the city. I was the guest of Chef Alain Ducasse at his restaurant in the Essex House… and as you can imagine, it was an experience I won’t soon forget.

First of all, trying to blog about Ducasse is like trying to tell you why I like a painting at MOMA. Me describing the dishes to you would equate to me describing the brush strokes. Alain Ducasse is an experience, as much as it is a dining destination. His dishes are theatre, and the flavors are so simply complex (yes, read that again) that all you can do is buckle in for the evening, and savor every moment.

What exactly did I eat? I”ll tell you.

But first, let’s get a few things out of the way.

This place is crazy expensive. So expensive that if you need to ask, you likely shouldn’t be eating here. The basic menu will run you about $160 a person without a beverage… the good menu over $180, and the seasonal tasting menus about $250. The wines are exquisite, and priced as such. The service is attentive without being overbearing and the atmosphere dripping with elegance. You’ll need a jacket, and I didn’t see a male patron without a tie as well. It’s proudly stuffy, in it’s own pretentious way…. but that feeling leaves about the time the sliver tray of hand made artisan breads find your table.

On this night, I enjoyed the following dishes. Here are my thoughts.

I started with: Peekytoe crabmeat, gazpacho gelée, Heirloom tomato granite.

The crabmeat was formed into a solid slab, topped with thinly sliced tomatoes. The crab, delicious and fresh, was similar to the grade we enjoy in South Louisiana, where much of the nation’s crabmeat is harvested. For those who know crab, the Peekytoe is an interesting story, as this Maine sand crab was known as a throw-away product by lobster fishermen for years, until they changed the name in the late 90’s to Peekytoe… and poof! A new crab was born and is now shipped to the worlds finest chefs. The gelée was lost on me a bit, but the crushed ice granite was nothing short of exceptional, complimenting the sea flavored main dish with earthy, sweet tomato granules. Overall, this dish was sublime and set the table.

Next, I ordered the Maine lobster, steamed haricots verts, sugar snap/English peas, fava beans.

The lobster arrived as a smallish tail, placed on its side in the center of the plate. Small drops of herb infused oils dotted the plate, and framed the palate for the green bean/snap pea mixture placed to accompany the lobster. The lobster meat was buttery delicious, and the entire plate had a common thread of flavor that had been well conceived. It was a winning dish.

The main entrée?....Roasted and glazed milk fed veal, wild mushrooms/asparagus "fricassée".

The veal was thick and flavorful, and surprisingly included a ribbon of fat (for flavor), a detail missing from most restaurant versions of this cut. Again, the simplicity of the ingredients in this dish is what shines. Ducasse is a genius when it comes to allowing his main ingredients to strut their stuff… and he’s not one to cover the pure essence of these flavors with heavy sauces.

Finally desert….. an Apricot/Sicilian pistachio soufflé, marmalade & sorbet.

Hard to out his into words. Well made soufflés are nothing short of spectacular, and this one was no exception. It was served along side of a scoop of apricot sorbet sprinkled with roasted pistachio nuts. This dish may be worth the trip alone.

Final synopsis?

If severely refined French cooking isn’t your thing, you won’t like Alain Ducasse.

These dishes have no reflection on NYC… and actually scream of his other restaurants in Paris and Tokyo (Ducasse is connected to some 30 restaurants). You could certainly close your eyes and beam yourself to a place far, far away.

Remember, this experience isn’t all about food. A night at Alain Ducasse is decadent. From the moment you enter to the second you leave, you are a special guest… and you know it. This evening is about sending your senses into overdrive, and the kitchen skillfully and shamefully renders you senseless as they provide a seemingly endless supply culinary delights.

If you love food and dining, you owe it to yourself to have an evening at Alain Ducasse. You just might need to borrow from your Christmas Fund to pull it off…..

Friday, September 08, 2006

Naked In Amsterdam

Living off the street and loving every minute of it

I’ve been here in Amsterdam, Netherlands for 3 days, and today realized something startling.

I am the largest person in this country.

Not only am I the largest at 6’2, 280, I am the largest by about 70 pounds or so. I mean, I just can't find another big guy on the street. Nowhere. Nada.

That said, I did find the one and only Big and Tall Men’s Clothier in Holland yesterday (a hobby of mine), and concluded that if in fact I did live here, I would most likely be naked. That’s based on the fact that t-shirts in this joint cost $45 dollars, jeans $110, and a jacket, $150. With the amount of clothes I need, I’d be out of cash before I filled my sock drawer.

So how do they do it?.. Stay so fit? Is it because they all (and I mean all) ride bikes? Walk everywhere? Eat healthier? Drink wine? Smoke grass? (ok, just the kids)

I say this as I watch some thin guy down a buttery Apple Pancake washed down with a double cappuccino.

I think its in the genes.

None the less, I’ve had fun eating here for a few days. Yes, you can always find your pancakes, gouda cheese plates, tomato soup, fried sausage croquettes and canal-side herring stands (yuch)….. but I always love to eat ethnic food in this part of Europe, as the mix of people has had such an amazing impact on the cuisine (think Indian food in London).

One of my favorite eats here are Falafel. There is a joint that makes darn near the best I have ever had… so I have had 3 since I arrived. It’s called MOAZ, and who knew, it’s a vegetarian place. (for more, )

This is no run of the mill falafel. These are incredibly flavorful, fried to just the right size. They stuff their homemade pita bread (fresh from the toaster), hit it with chopped lettuce, and then you stuff it full with a salad bar full of goodiess like pickles, beets, peppers, etc. Top it off with some yogurt sauce and get busy.

Some research on my part (not much) did show a lone USA location, in Philly. But for some reason, I’d bet the one here tastes better. Maybe it’s the 90 foot Heineken sign hanging above my head.

Other street food here includes Hot Dogs, which are terrific (any hot dog made east of the Atlantic is made with love), the fore-mentioned herring stands, pastry and waffle shops, and lots of ice cream. Throw in about 100 Belgian French Fry stands and you could give yourself a serious stomach ache.

I haven’t actually eaten in a “real” restaurant yet, but I’ve never been a fan of Dutch cuisine. So the pubs and schwarma stands will just have to do.


There is good falafel and amazing Halal food (street meat) in New York City… and many will argue the best Halal can be found at the corner of 53rd and 6th Avenue.

This cart is soooo popular, they often have a line nearly ½ city block long. They open at 7:30pm and remain open until 4am. The line is there all night. No joke.

A week ago, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore, and walked down there after working late one night.

I had the chicken and rice platter for a whole $5. This is a container packed with chicken, yellow rice, pita triangles and lettuce that must weigh 10 pounds. The meat here is halal, which means it is produced hormone free and in a humane way, according to Muslim laws. Ask for the spicy red sauce (just a bit)and the magic white yogurt sauce… and damn. Amazing. Now I know why they line up. You will not believe this value, and it just tastes terrific. What a find.

They are so popular, they now have their own website: .


If you are in need of that perfect midtown joint, visit one of my favorite spots here - . This site has all of the scoop on where to eat in the black hole that is Midtown NYC.

Until then, I’ll see ya at 49th and 6th. Ciao from Amsterdam.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bella Luna: Struggling To Be Average

Missing The Mark On The Upper West Side

I’ve never quite understood how a barely average restaurant can survive in New York.

With a high concentration of well above average places… especially Italian spots… it would seem that any place that didn’t do at least one thing well… well, would shutter it’s doors.

Bella Luna is a classic example of a destination that just misses the mark... but has remianed open for a long time.

On the outside, the store has a few things going for it… a great location, on the corner, outside seating in season, a bar… etc. The rest is a miss.

First, the staff (although friendly) is robotic and absent. They simply go through the motions, yes to his, no to that. There is no personal service, no recommendations, no nothing.

“How are the specials today?” we asked. “I don’t know. We’re not allowed to try any of them,” she replied. “They look pretty good.”


“The veal… it comes with pasta I see. Can I get it with meat sauce?” I asked.

“Yes. For an extra three dollars.” She replied.

See where I am going with this?

Inside the bland dining room (turn the lights down maybe?) we sat. The somewhat dressy room was filled with very casual diners, a welcome sight in a nice Upper West Side neighborhood. Unfortunately the décor and menu have nothing in common.

The menu itself is fairly simple, with some apps, salads, pasta dishes, fish (small selection) and veal/chicken dishes.

We started with a plate of beets with goat cheese, which were fine and uneventful.

This was followed by a house salad.. a plate of mixed baby greens (average) with a house dressing plopped on top. Note to chef: take a moment and do your guests a favor… toss this salad in a bowl with the dressing, and hit it with some course salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Then place it next to the salad you serve now… and ask yourself which one you would rather eat.

Our main courses came next… one, a special of the day… an artichoke ravioli in a pink sauce. I thought this might be a special sauce, until I saw it on the menu as a regular item… which means this is the incarnation of a lazy kitchen. Again, the dish (which had a few grilled chicken tenders added) was spectacularly average.

The other dish was a veal parm, with a side of pasta and meat sauce. The veal was barely average, and the pasta well, well below average. Lumped onto the plate with the veal, it was terribly overcooked in a meat ragu with very little flavor. I cook much richer sauces at home with likely half of the resources of their commercial kitchen. Shame shame.

I failed to mention that I opted out of ordering a bottle of outrageously priced wine, and ordered a glass of house white, which was undrinkable… and believe me, I’m easy when it comes to wine.

There was a dessert menu, but with the level of quality where it was, we decided to walk next door and try the frozen yogurt.

What makes me steam about restaurants like Bella Luna is the lost potential of all of it. A great locale, loyal neighborhood and seemingly fixable kitchen. I know this place has been here forever… but let me lend the owner this advice… take a long look at your menu from top to bottom, then go out to eat. Experience the range of top shelf Italian cooking in the city, and compare your fare. If you shy away from your own dishes… make a change. I’m not telling you to pretend to be a Lupa or Felidia… but be something. Your lost identity and run of the mill menu will soon fade into NYC restaurant oblivion.

I won’t be back.

Truth be told, you can have a much better meal a block away at Pesce Pasta… an unpretentious gem that will practically cook any dish you can dream up, at a cheaper price. It is a simple place with a simple menu… that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

Stay tuned to Fork New York! I am headed to Europe with a report from Amsterdam… home of the world’s best bowl of tomato soup!