Entries in Chris Cipollone (6)



You figured Chris Cipollone was gonna get another shot. The food media loved Tenpenny, his restaurant in the back of a midtown hotel, but he followed the founding GM (Jeffrey Tascarella) quickly out the door, citing low pay.

After a brief stint at Abe & Arthur’s in the Meatpacking District, he resurfaced at Piora, in the lovely West Village space that was The Goodwin. Going by the critical acclaim (three sparklers from Sutton, two apiece from Wells and Platt) and the difficulty of getting a reservation, I’d say Cipollone’s gonna be here a while.

Critics have struggled to describe the cuisine: Sutton called it “French–Italian–Korean fusion.” Wells said merely that “Korean flavors dart in and out of the menu.” (Owner Simon Kim is part Korean.) But in a lengthy interview with the Village Voice, Cipolline said, “we’re a modern American restaurant” and “we’re not fusing much.”

To the average diner, walking in the door without reading the publicity, Piora seems more Italian than anything else, down to even its vowel-heavy name, which in fact is the Korean word for “blossom.” But you’ll see a section of the menu for pastas, and assume the place must be Italian, although the menu is not in the standard five-part format, and there are no Italian headings like primi or contorni.

Actually, there are no headings at all, and the pastas are entrée-sized. As you’d expect for a hit restaurant, prices have edged up over the last six months. Chicken at opening ($26) is now Poussin ($29). The acclaimed Bucatini pasta has gone from $26 to $36; the duck from $28 to $33. But the chef now serves an amuse bouche, of which I saw no mention in the early reviews. An $85 tasting menu has been added, and there’s the obligatory off-menu dry-aged 40-ounce ribeye for two ($150).

None of this is to suggest that Piora is charging too much. This is simply the arc that successful restaurants travel. For the quality of the food, Piora is fairly priced, with appetizers $15–20, entrées (including pastas) $25–36, and side dishes $9. The menu is blissfully short, with fewer than twenty items fitting on one generously-spaced page.

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Note: Jeffrey Tascarella, managing partner at Tenpenny when this review was written, left the restaurant to join the Daniel Humm/Will Guidara venture at the NoMad hotel. Two months later, chef Chris Cipollone left too. As of June 2013, Safet Kurtovic (of the Central Park Boathouse) is GM and Kay Choe is the chef.


The new restaurant Tenpenny hopes to disprove the rule that midtown hotel restaurants are for tourists. Named for a kind of carpenter’s nail, it has the chic rusticity that’s normally more at home south of 14th Street.

Tenpenny is in the boutique Gotham Hotel on 46th Street between Fifth and Madison. It’s in a quiet, dimly-lit, windowless room well back from the street. A comfortable bar anchors one side of the oblong room, with bare wood tables and a long banquette along the other.

There’s real talent at the helm, with Jeffrey Tascarella as managing partner and chief explicator of wines and cocktails. His resume includes Fiamma, Scarpetta, and Faustina. The chef, Chris Cipollone, also worked at Faustina, the now-shuttered Devin Tavern, and remains in charge at Tribeca’s Dylan Prime.

The website describes Tenpenny as an American restaurant, but both the menu and the wine list have a distinctly Italian accent—not surprising, given the principals’ backgrounds. Prices are about average for a 2011 opening, with appetizers $12–17, entrées $23–36 (all but one under $30). Tasting menus are offered at $68 for six courses, $115 (seven plus beverage pairing), or $125 (ten).

There are just seven choices each for the appetizer and the entrée, plus a couple of recited specials—always a good sign that the chef is focusing on doing a few things well. There is no burger (except at lunch), no steak, nor any of the big-ticket proteins-for-two that are routine on Manhattan menus these days.

The server brings pretzel bread (above left), literally the taste of a pretzel in the shape of a dinner roll. It’s warm and buttery, with soft honey butter and a wickedly hot mustard on the side. You could eat these all night.

Cipollini soup ($13; above right) is a riff on traditional French onion soup, with caramelized cipollini onions, fontina cheese, and a thick wad of croutons under the hood. It was too salty for my taste, and the cheese disappeared too quickly. And aren’t we about a month too late for it to still be on the menu?

Tortellini Nero ($24; above left), is a rich, spicy dish—also arguably a shade on the heavy side for spring—but a success nonetheless, with a smoky barbecued octopus ragu, green sage, tomatoes, and other vegetables. The meal ended with petits fours (above right), an unexpected luxury.

The staff were attentive and well trained, but the restaurant was only about 20 percent full on what was probably an atypical Saturday, the day before Easter.

Early reports from bloggers, yelpers, and the like, are mostly raves—remarkable for a location that is not really “on the way” to anything. It will be interesting to see how the restaurant evolves, as early popularity and an intimate space ought to allow the chef the opportunity to branch out from what is now a well prepared but slightly timid menu.

Tenpenny (Gotham Hotel, 16 E. 46th Street between Fifth & Madison, East Midtown)

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



Note: Faustina closed in December 2010. The hotel changed hands, and the new owners wanted to install a new restaurant. Multiple operators have run the space since then. As of January 2014, it is Narcissa, a restaurant from Dovetail owner/chef John Fraser.


Most restaurants open around the husks of old ones, as it’s a lot cheaper to renovate a space that already has a commercial kitchen. The transformation that turned the failed Table 8 into Scott Conant’s Faustina was unusually speedy—taking only about a month. Perhaps that’s because its home, in the Cooper Square Hotel, couldn’t do without a restaurant for very long.

Conant has had the midas touch for years, from L’Impero to Alto (now run by Michael White), to Scarpetta. We found the latter wildly over-rated (three stars from Bruni), but perhaps it is more consistent now; we have never had the urge to re-visit.

I assumed that Faustina would be a lazy restaurant. Nothing against Conant, but it was obviously thrown together quickly. To our surprise, Faustina is actually very good, and certainly much more enjoyable than our first visit to Scarpetta.

The menu is evolving. The original concept made us shudder: “small plates”. Neither of the early reviewers, Steve Cuozzo nor Alan Richman, was happy about that. There’s now a section of the menu offering piatti grande, which I’m assuming is new, as no review mentioned it. Richman complained of a menu with nine sections. There are now seven, which is a step in the right direction.

Those menu categories—at least this week—are Bread & Olives ($4–6), Cheese & Salume ($6), Raw Bar ($12–23; selection $68), Piatti ($9–19), Pasta & Risotto ($14–21), Piatti Grande ($31–42), and Sides ($9). Nothing like mixing-and-matching English and Italian.

At the bar, there’s a different menu, mostly a subset of the dining room menu with a few extra items. I compared the two: for the dishes on both, the prices are the same. A La Freida burger (what else?) was introduced this week. Given the popularity of bar dining, they might as well have one menu.

As always at such places, one is unsure of how much to order, and doubtful of whether the server’s advice can be trusted. We ordered—all to share—a small plate, a pasta, and a large plate, and it was still more food than we could eat.

We liked the hefty Lardo-Wrapped Prawns with rosemary lentils ($16; above left), even if we couldn’t taste much lardo. Spaghetti with octopus ragu ($15; above right) justified Conant’s well deserved reputation as a pasta champion.

Oddly, both of these were served at once, after which we were advised that our entrée—er, large plate—would take 25 minutes. Apparently it had not occurred to them that the two appetizers—er, small plates—ought to be served as separate courses.

When they said “large plate,” they weren’t kidding. The Glazed Berkshire Pork Chop ($31; above left) was the largest pork entrée we’d ever seen. The photo doesn’t do it justice. With one more side dish, three people could have shared it. From the descriptions, all of the piatti grande seem to be like that—very large portions that a sane solo diner couldn’t order.

The server presented the double-chop table-side, then whisked it away to be cut into sections. We’re not sure how Italian it is, but it might be the best pork entrée in New York, blowing the Little Owl’s to smithereens. A side of herbed fries ($9; above right) was a greasy mess; the evening’s only disappointment.

The décor, as Richman noted, could be a hotel anywhere. We never visited Table 8, but we understand it is little changed. The trip to the rest room, as many reviewers have noted, is a trek so long you’ll be tempted to leave breadcrumbs to show you the path back home. That’s often the case with hotel restaurants.

Servers wear ties and work with brisk efficiency. A sommelier comes to your table unbidden, though the wine list is neither as long nor as varied as it ought to be. Like everything else at Faustina, that could change.

In sum, Faustina is promising indeed. We don’t know when we’ll get around to returning. Unlike Scarpetta, we’d very much like to.

Faustina (25 Cooper Square (Bowery between 5th & 6th Streets), East Village)

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

Faustina at the Cooper Square Hotel on Urbanspoon


Devin Tavern

Note: Devin Tavern closed in January 2009. This time, it’s for real. Its replacement is Trattoria Cinque.


I felt guilty. Eater.com announced that Devin Tavern, a resident of its Deathwatch hospice had expired. I wrote an obituary that was premature. Yesterday, Eater walked the story back. Devin Tavern is still open. I figured the least I could do was have dinner there.

The restaurant has re-invented itself multiple times, in an effort—so far apparently fruitless—to win a steady following. I visited Devin Tavern v1.0 about two years ago. I liked the rustic menu, but Frank Bruni wrote it off after one blog post. Most of the major critics didn’t review it. I think they’re on their third chef now. The server wasn’t sure of his name, but she said it’s the same chef as nearby Dylan Prime, which has the same owners.

I don’t know if the restaurant will survive, but its website is overdue for an overhaul. Its “press” section has links to stories about a chef who is no longer there. Its online menu shows a number of items that are no longer offered. I had my heart set on the House Made Bacons, which have been dropped.

The current menu doesn’t blaze any culinary trails, but the kitchen did a solid job with Steak Frites ($24), a slightly chewy but expertly prepared hanger steak that I was happy to finish, with an excellent Hollandaise sauce on the side and good crisp fries.

Cocktails are superb, all of which are “made with house-made syrups, liqueurs & fresh juice,” a bargain at $12 each. The bread service was excellent, too.

The space is enormous, with several spacious dining rooms. They’ve probably never been full here, but last night they had a large private party and a solid bar crowd.

Seating is comfortable, and the rustic chic décor is easy on the eyes. Service was very good, as it ought to be when there aren’t many customers to keep track of.

Devin Tavern (363 Greenwich St. between Franklin & Harrison Sts., TriBeCa)

Food: *½
Service: *½
Ambiance: *½
Overall: *½


Dylan Prime


Note: Dylan Prime closed for most of 2013 due to a tax deficiency. It re-opened after re-modeling in late 2013 with new chef Michael Bernardino, and Kerry Heffernan consulting on the menu. This review is of the original Dylan Prime.


Dylan Prime is an haute steakhouse in Northwest TriBeCa. To an extent, it’s built on the standard model, with steaks à la carte and side dishes that plump up the bill. It departs from that model by offering the alternative of fully composed plates that are a bit more creative. The setting is also much more elegant and refined than the standard-issue NYC steakhouse.

I’ve dined at Dylan Prime a few times, always ordering standard steakhouse dishes. I always found them competently done, if not spectacular. To me, the restaurant’s primary virtue was its proximity to the office (just two blocks). It’s also a reasonable choice if you want to bring guests to an elegant steakhouse that doesn’t play to stereotypes.

Last night, I wanted to try one of the chef’s compositions, the Carpetbagger Steak ($41). The chef must consider this his signature item, as the website offers a video of how it is prepared—an honor bestowed on no other dish. An 11 oz. Filet Mignon is sliced open and stuffed with Blue Point Oysters, and it’s served on a bed of spinach and baked potatoes.

The video shows the oysters being added before the filet is cooked. From the taste, I would have guessed they were added afterwards, as they weren’t as warm as the inside of the steak. My reaction was that neither ingredient benefited from the presence of the other. The menu promised a Guiness and Brown Sugar Sauce, and this too is shown on the video. My dish was served dry, however. Obviously someone in the kitchen screwed up, and I only noticed the omission when I got home and rechecked the website.

Side dishes are $8. Winter squash risotto with parmesan and honey was an amazing deal, considering that an order of french fries would have been the same price. That risotto was also the best thing I tasted. Like most steakhouse side dishes, it’s not a realistic portion for a solo diner on top of an entrée, unless you have an extraordinary appetite. I left half of it behind—not for lack of enthusiasm—and hadn’t even ordered an appetizer.

The dessert menu offers a number of cocktails called “Pie-tinis” and “Cake-tinis,” named for well known flavors of pies and cakes. Examples include Apple Pie à la Mode, Keylime Pie, German Chocolate Cake, or Strawberry Cheescake. I tried the Amaretto Cheesecake martini ($12). Sure enough, it tasted exactly like a liquefied spiked cheesecake, with a gingerbread crust on the edge of the glass, and crushed almonds floating on top.

I had wondered whether Wolfgang’s TriBeCa, which opened last spring just a few blocks south, would leech business away from Dylan Prime. But the restaurant was nearly full on a Wednesday night. Wolfgang’s, of course, is nearly always full too, demonstrating that the steakhouse format remains almost indestructible, despite the high check size.

As a pure steakhouse, Dylan Prime is not as good as Wolfgang’s, but the space is far more attractive and serene. Notwithstanding the snafu with the Carpetbagger Steak, in general I have found that Dylan’s does everything competently. Service is a tad slow, but friendly.

Dylan Prime (62 Laight Street at Greenwich Street, TriBeCa)

Food: *
Service: *½
Ambiance: **
Overall: *


Devin Tavern

Note: Devin Tavern closed in January 2009. Click here for a more recent review.

I had a first look at Devin Tavern late last week. The website describes it as a “rustic American tavern.” I didn’t detect much rusticity in the décor, which reminded me of a country club, but it certainly applied to the cuisine.

The menu steers toward hearty comfort food, such as a fresh ricotta tortelloni appetizer ($14), which comes with braised beef cheeks and chanterelles in a red wine reduction. The combination worked, but it felt more like an entrée.  One of the side dishes was a wild mushroom flan ($8), which had the appearance of a dessert, but was too substantial to be a mere side dish. Perhaps a shift to the appetizer section would help. A citrus cheese cake ($11) came poised atop a sponge cake that didn’t yield easily enough to the fork.

That tortelloni isn’t an anomaly. The current menu includes severak other “heavy” appetizers, like Chicken & Biscuits ($12), Braised Lamb Shank & Barley Stew ($12), Shrimp & Grits ($16), and a Lobster & Corn Soufflé ($14). I wonder how many diners want to move on from such fare to entrées like Braised Short Ribs ($26), Grilled Whole Fish ($36), or a Bison Rib-Eye ($34)? To be sure, you can also get a salad at Devin Tavern, but the meaning of “rustic” is abundantly clear.

The space is large, and on a Wednesday evening it didn’t seem close to full. Service was professional and sharp.

Devin Tavern (363 Greenwich Street between Franklin and Harrison Sts, TriBeCa)

Food: *
Service: *½
Ambiance: *
Overall: *