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The Payoff: Scarpetta

This week, Frank Bruni reviews Scott Conant’s greatest hits, finding their current home at Scarpetta worth a three very generous stars:

“Spaghetti, tomato and basil.” That’s all it says. That’s pretty much what it is. But however Mr. Conant is choosing and cooking the Roma tomatoes with which he sauces his house-made spaghetti, he’s getting a roundness of flavor and nuance of sweetness that amount to pure Mediterranean bliss…

More than that, it underscored the wisdom of his work at Scarpetta: he’s getting back to the tomato. I mean that not literally but figuratively, in the sense that Mr. Conant, whose cooking took a precious turn when he opened the restaurant Alto in 2005, is mining a more straightforward, soulful vein.

Here’s a reminder: The Bruni didn’t like Alto, finding it “haute and cold.” He awarded just two stars, which was an insult to a restaurant clearly designed for three. After Conant left, Bruni re-reviewed Alto and gave it the three stars it had deserved in the first place. Critics love to be vindicated. At Scarpetta, Conant has abandoned his excellent work at Alto, so Bruni says, “I told you so.”

Ironically, I am fairly certain that the owners of Scarpetta weren’t gunning for three stars. They’ll happily take them, but I’m sure a two-star verdict wouldn’t have carried anything like the disappointment it did at Alto. Scarpetta is a decent enough place, but it is well below any of the other Italian places that have won three stars from Bruni.

Give full credit to Eater, who correctly forecasted that Bruni’s Italian grading curve would be on full display this week. Eater wins $4 on a hypothetical one-dollar bet, while we lose $1.

              Eater          NYJ
Bankroll $97.50   $121.67
Gain/Loss +4.00   –1.00
Total $101.50   $120.67
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 46–21   48–19

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