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Rolling the Dice: L'Impero and Alto

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: Tomorrow, Frank Bruni gives us an haute Italian two-fer: L’Impero and Alto. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 8-1
One Star: 5-1
Two Stars: 2-1
Three Stars: 4-1
Four Stars: 10,000-1

Zero Stars: 9-1
One Star: 5-1
Two Stars: 4-1
Three Stars: 3-1
Four Stars: 8,000-1

The Skinny: L’Impero was the restaurant that put Scott Conant on the map when Eric Asimov awarded three stars in December 2002—a rare accomplishment for a non-Italian chef, to say the least. In 2005, Conant opened Alto, this time focusing on northern Italian cuisine. Frank Bruni gave it a brutal two-star review. It was a devastating takedown for a restaurant that was supposed to be more upscale than L’Impero. Not long thereafter, Eater put Alto deathwatch, but defying the odds, it has remained open—thriving, even. Earlier this year, Conant left both restaurants, with Michael White, formerly of the three-star Fiamma, replacing him.

This week’s duo is tough to assess, but I am leaning towards the same conclusions as Eater. L’Impero flies well below the radar these days, which suggests it is no longer among this town’s elite. Bruni loves Italian, but he has given three stars to a lot of places. At some point, he’s got to make distinctions, and L’Impero may be the one that doesn’t make the cut.

Normally, a re-review brings a change of rating. It’s hard to imagine him liking Alto any less than last time, which suggests it has nowhere to go but up. Of course, White’s arrival may be reason enough for the re-review, with or without a change of rating. But I thought that Bruni woefully mis-rated Alto last time, so this gives him the chance to right a wrong.

The Bet: We agree with Eater that Frank Bruni will award two stars to L’Impero and three stars to Alto.

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