Entries in Gemma (2)


The Payoff: Gemma

Today, as expected, a clearly bored Frank Bruni awards one star to Gemma:

These are the makings of Gemma, a cheat sheet of a restaurant whose proprietors take fewer risks than a hurricane-insurance agent in Nebraska. They’ve turned to a fundamentally earnest cuisine for calculated purposes, and they know that many diners sprinting to the newest hot spot don’t really want to find anything new. They want reassurance that they’ve mastered what’s worth knowing.

That applied to knockoffs of French bistros and brasseries in past decades and it applies to post-red-sauce evocations of Italian enotecas, osterias and the like in this one. The moment-conscious diner now talks of salumi, not charcuterie, and if he or she is feeling blue, it’s for Gorgonzola more often than Roquefort (with Cabrales making inroads).

You’ve got to remember that at least 80% of diners actually prefer “formula restaurants,” although they tend to bore the critics. Gemma probably wouldn’t have been reviewed, but for the pedigree of its owners. Frank actually found a few dishes he liked: an “impeccable” chicken, a “buttery” branzino. And he loved the space, with tables spaced more generously than usual. All that added up to one star.

Eater and I both both win $1 at even-money odds on our hypothetical one-dollar bets.

          Eater        NYJ
Bankroll $44.50   $48.67
Gain/Loss +1.00   +1.00
Total $45.50   $49.67
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 19–5   18–6

Rolling the Dice: Gemma

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 reviews Gemma, the new Italian place in the Bowery Hotel, brought to you by the folks behind the Waverly Inn and La Bottega. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 4-1
One Star: EVEN
Two Stars: 9-1
Three Stars: 75-1
Four Stars: 25,000-1

The Skinny: First of all, we need to pop some caffeine pills, to keep ourselves awake as Frank Bruni reviews yet another Italian restaurant. Why doesn’t he just move to Italy? Oh, I forgot. He did that already.

The leading indicators aren’t in Gemma’s favor. The same crew’s La Bottega (also in a hotel), earned a goose-egg from Amanda Hesser 3½ years ago, while the Waverly Inn managed an unenthusiastic star from Frank Bruni nine months ago.

Early critical reports on Gemma aren’t exactly raves. In New York, Adam Platt tossed out one star, “half a star for the food, and another half for the space.” Restaurant Girl had 1½ stars in the Daily News, which on her scale means “hit or miss,” noting that it is “certainly not a serious culinary endeavour.”

We dismiss any chance of two stars or above. Frank Bruni isn’t going to be under-cut by the Restaurant Girl. Won’t. Happen. The only question is: one star or zero? If this wasn’t an Italian restaurant, we’d be on the zero-star train faster than Frank Bruni can say crudo. And I have to say I’m sorely tempted, given the low odds Eater is offering this week at the one-star level.

Then again, this is Italian, which nearly always carries a one-star premium in Bruni’s version of the star system.

The Bet: Until we see Frank Bruni give zero stars to an Italian restaurant, we have to assume it can’t happen. We agree with Eater that Bruni will aware one star to Gemma.