Entries in Ago (4)


The Payoff: Ago

Today, the Brunatrix bends Ago over the table and administers a first-class spanking, with only the third POOR rating of his tenure:

She led us to a round table little bigger than a bike wheel. When our four appetizers later arrived and claimed every square millimeter of it, the waiter audibly contemplated balancing a fifth, communal appetizer that we’d ordered on top of our wine glasses…

This restaurant isn’t in the hospitality business. It’s in the attitude business, projecting an aloofness that permeated all of my meals there, nights of wine and poses for swingers on the make, cougars on the prowl and anyone else who values a sort of facile fabulousness over competent service or a breaded veal Milanese with any discernible meat.

The one I had one night was pounded so thin that the breading on top met the breading on the bottom without pausing for much of anything in between. A vegan could have made peace with it…

The review proves that Ago is doubly incompetent. In the first place, it offers terrible service to its non-VIP customers. And in the second place, even when it has a VIP customer, it doesn’t even know the difference.

This review also proves that critic anonymity works. There are about 15 times when the restaurant could have partially redeemed itself, if only they’d recognized that they were serving Frank Bruni. Critics that always trumpet their presence—Restaurant Girl, for instance—are practically assured of never having such an experience.

Eater and I both predicted a zero-star review. We both win $3 on our hypothetical one-dollar bets.

              Eater          NYJ
Bankroll $88.50   $108.67
Gain/Loss +3.00   +3.00
Total $91.50   $111.67
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 41–18   43–16

Rolling the Dice: Ago

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 visits Ago—that’s pronounced “Ah-go”—in Robert De Niro’s Greenwich Hotel. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 3-1 √√
One Star: 2-1
Two Stars: 6-1
Three Stars: 25-1
Four Stars: 1,000-1

The Skinny: By all accounts, Ago is a formulaic trattoria. The nominal chef, Agostino Sciandri, for whom the restaurant is named, spends no time in New York, and apparently doesn’t intend to. Ago might be a one-star restaurant if everything were working perfectly. The trouble is, it’s not that impressive. Alan Richman didn’t think so, and neither did we.

As Eater notes, Ago is “goose-train eligible.” Bruni normally doesn’t review obscure restaurants only to trash them, but where you’ve got a celebrity owner, a celebrity chef, and a well publicized opening, then nobody’s safe. Bruni is on record with the view that:

…the definition of one star as “good” would quickly lose any meaning if the review space didn’t occasionally present examples, and reviews, of restaurants that fall below that mark. That argues for zero-star reviews from time to time.

To Bruni, “occasionally” has usually translated into a handful of zero-star reviews per year, but he has issued no goose-eggs since he rated Harry Cipriani POOR in November 2007. That’s seven months ago. The goose train is overdue.

The Bet: We agree with Eater that Frank Bruni will award no stars to Ago.




Note: Ago was rumored to be closing at the end of January 2009, to give way to a new Italian concept under Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s management. That deal fizzled, and Andrew Carmellini’s hit Italian restaurant, Locanda Verde, replaced it.

The first time I visited Ago (pronounced Ah-go), I only got as far as taking a quick look and picking up a menu. Yesterday, I dropped in for dinner. I was seated immediately, but it was in the front area, where restaurants usually seat their walk-ins. The bar was doing a brisk business, so it was noisy and not at all charming.

Last week, the menu offered a rib-eye steak grilled on the wood-burning oven, for $34. Yesterday, it appeared on the menu as “M.P.” (possibly now a t-bone) and I ordered it without asking the price, which turned out to be a stunning $54—a rather dramatic increase, wouldn’t you say? Given that the menu is just a loose sheet of paper that is clearly being frequently reprinted, why can’t the price of this item be included?


Leaving the price aside, it was a wonderful hunk of meat, with the wood-burning oven imparting a wonderful smokey flavor. But was it worth $54, given that Wolfgang’s offers more-or-less comparable quality for $15 less, just two blocks away? The potatoes are included here, but as they come on the same plate, they quickly get soggy from wallowing in the steak’s juices.

The server was friendly and reasonably attentive, though he missed out on the chance to sell me a second class of the barbera d’asti, by failing to note that the first glass I’d ordered ($14) was empty. When he finally came around, I decided it was time to leave.

Ago (379 Greenwich Street at N. Moore Street, TriBeCa)

Food: *
Service: *
Ambiance: *
Overall: *


First Look: Ago


Note: Click here for a later visit to Ago.

The long-anticipated restauarant Ago opened this week in Robert DeNiro’s Greenwich Hotel. I work across the street, so I thought I’d drop in for a drink before heading uptown for dinner. There were plenty of empty tables at 6:30 p.m., but the bar was packed. I didn’t care to stand around, so I just picked up a menu and left.

The name, pronounced “Ah-go,” comes from the chef Agostino Sciandri, who heads up the original restaurant in West Hollywood. Since it opened a decade ago, branches have sprouted in Las Vegas and South Beach. The New York outpost, which feels like it has been under construction forever, has garnered tons of coverage on Eater and Grub Street.

It’s hard to comprehend all that excitement for a chain of trattorias serving standard Italian food. I didn’t see any pathbreaking items on the menu, but by today’s standards it’s inexpensive, with only one entrée north of $30 (the ribeye steak). Salads and antipasti are $10–21, pizzas and panini $14–16, primi $12–21, secondi $25–34.

Ago (379 Greenwich Street at N. Moore Street, TriBeCa)