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First Look: Il Matto

Note: Il Matto closed in April 2011, less than one year old. It re-opened in June 2011 as White & Church with a new menu and décor, which also failed. The space is now Bouley Botanical, an indoor farm and private event space from David Bouley.


Il Matto opened last week in the old Arqua space (whose owners still have Petrarca Cucina e Vino, across the street).

The chef is Matteo Boglione, who worked briefly at Falai and the lesser known Gradisca. “Reknowned mixologist Christina Bini, who has come straight from Italy,” heads up the cocktail program.

The name of the restaurant means “the mad man,” and that is appropriate. There’s nothing about this place that I liked.

The website touts the décor as “chic and esoteric.” I call it sterile. At the bar, where I sat, they have managed to find the world’s most uncomfortable stools, with seats too shallow and backs too short.

The bizarre menu is so busy with amateur artwork that it’s hard to find the food. Its offerings are overthought and overwrought. Examples include “peanut roasted chicken over celery root purée and garlic chips,” and “Tuna tartare, black olive tapenade, cannelini beans, avocado, and fried leeks.” For a place that invested so heavily in its bar, strangely there are no bar snacks.

The cocktails (all $12–15) are in three groups: martini, salt, and sweet. Your heart sinks when the supposedly reknowned mixologist doesn’t know the meaning of the word “martini.”

Except for the presence of vermouth and the shape of the glass, the Maltese ($14; left) wasn’t any kind of martini, with its mix of vodka, ginger, spicy peperoncino, and a bell pepper garnish. It was bland and weak.

Better was the Buffalo 66 ($13) in the “salt” category, resembling a bloody mary with beet juice replacing tomato juice.

It was not crowded, but drinks were slow to come out. I paid up and headed out to dinner elsewhere. I am not tempted to return.

Il Matto (281 Church Street at White Street, Tribeca)

Reader Comments (2)

Hmmmmm. I had the smilia coctail and it was pretty great even for a vodka rocks guy like myself. Unlike the author, I stayed for dinner and thought the food was good even thought the artwork kinda did interfer with the menu. Bar snacks? Seriously author? What like pretzels and salty nuts? My suggestion: You'll probably feel more at home in a pub......

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNy Diner

@NY Diner, Thanks for the comment.

I don’t know if you get around very much, but these days, most restaurants with a bar offer food options (that you pay for) smaller than a typical appetizer or entrée, more suitable for grazing. I am not referring to pretzels and nuts, or to pub food.

July 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

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