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Review Recap: Locanda Verde

Today, Frank Bruni awarded the expected two stars to Locanda Verde, while also scolding chef Andrew Carmellini for not doing more:

Renown in the restaurant world can dawn so suddenly and grow so quickly that many chefs get ahead of themselves, winding up a half-dozen paces beyond where they rightfully belong.

For Andrew Carmellini, the opposite has been true. Now 38, he has lagged behind, without billing as prominent or a showcase quite as flattering as he deserves…

But in keeping with the Carmellini story, Locanda Verde doesn’t amount to the exactly right situation or perfect fit for him. It’s not the Carmellini restaurant that many of us have been waiting and hoping for, though it has plenty to recommend it. Hit the menu’s strong spots and you’ll have a terrific meal at a reasonable price.

Like the menu at A Voce, the one here is emphatically market-driven, as the restaurant’s name (which means “green inn”) telegraphs. But the dishes in aggregate tend to be more rustic and less elegant, perhaps a reflection of Mr. Carmellini’s mood, certainly a reflection of the moment.

Bruni has a long history of over-rating Italian restaurants, but he certainly gets the food:

The pasta dishes and entrees weren’t as uniformly successful. While the “Sunday night ragù” on top of big, floppy gigantoni was a porky dream and while a dish called “my grandmother’s ravioli”— filled with short rib and pork and sauced with San Marzano tomatoes — made me want to swap ancestors with Mr. Carmellini, the crumbled mix of meats in a white Bolognese was a total washout, and the noodles in several dishes were slightly overcooked. Neither his grandmother nor mine would approve.

Carmellini’s last place, A Voce, was obviously a two-star restaurant, but it got three from Bruni. Today, he walks it back:

When he left in 2005 to open A Voce, he got his own kitchen, where he did some of the city’s best Italian cooking. But A Voce’s coolly modern, oddly soulless cosmetics were more of a drag on his efforts than a complement to them.

I couldn’t agree more. Although some of the finger-wagging in today’s review strikes the wrong tone, this time he got the rating right.

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