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Rolling the Dice: Fiamma

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 reviews Fiamma, the one truly serious establishment in Stephen Hanson’s galaxy of crowd-pleasing one-star restaurants. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 8-1
One Star: 5-1
Two Stars: 3-1
Three Stars: 4-1
Four Stars: 25,000-1

The Skinny: This is technically a re-review, as William Grimes had awarded three stars to Fiamma’s predecessor, Fiamma Osteria, with Michael White at the helm. Earlier this year, White decamped to run the kitchens at Alto and L’Impero (three and two stars respectively, per The Bruni), and Hanson hired Fabio Trabocchi to replace him. Fiamma is the only restaurant in Hanson’s portfolio that critics have taken at all seriously, and he is surely itching to keep all three of his stars.

I haven’t been to Fiamma, but Bruni often telegraphs where he’s headed. In a blog post just one week ago, he complained about the custom of covering tablecloth stains with a fresh napkin, which he called the Napkin of Shame. And yes, he had been “shamed” at Fiamma. (I still don’t get what’s “shameful” about it, but hey, that’s The Bruni: the rituals of fine dining are lost on him.)

Anyway, he didn’t have much to say about the food, but what he did say wasn’t promising:

The meal progressed, a rich, saucy meal, because Fiamma’s new chef, Fabio Trabocchi, cooks in a rich, saucy style. One course departed, another arrived, and so on and so forth. We’ll delve into this deeper when review time comes around.

I don’t remember eating with particular abandon. In fact I remember eating in a restrained fashion, wary of the cumulative effect of all this richness and all this richness and all this sauciness.

My take? Those aren’t the words of a critic who was really enjoying his meal. If Frank is obsessed about napkins, he’s not loving the food. That’s why a three-star review is looking like a real long-shot.

But he didn’t imply it was awful either, as it would have to be for a former three-star restaurant to be double-demoted to one star. So Eater’s two-star prediction is looking pretty good.

The Bet: We predict that Frank Bruni will award two stars to Fiamma.

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