In today’s Times, Frank Bruni hands out a pair of one-star cupcakes to Gottino and Terroir, two fine restaurants masquerading as wine bars:
Both are trawling an easygoing confluence of Italian soul and finger food. And they’re reeling in enough— both menus have dozens of options beyond salumi and cheese — to force the question, are Terroir and Gottino restaurants in wine-bar drag?
Ms. Williams seems terrified by that notion. On the phone recently she caught herself using the words lunch and dinner and quickly reversed course, saying she didn’t want customers looking to Gottino for an actual meal.
“Just squeeze in, eat and drink, because it’s not a restaurant,” she said. “I don’t want people to have restaurant expectations. But if I tell people just to squeeze in, eat and drink, it’ll all be O.K.”
Since the “Restaurants” column doesn’t normally review wine bars, we figured Bruni would choose two that he liked. He acknowledged the “very real limitations and discomforts of both Gottino and Terroir, where space is tight, the mood is agitated, reservations aren’t accepted and you could easily wind up standing and waiting 45 minutes for the privilege of straddling a stool.” Also, “overall dining experiences are abbreviated, and not suited to many occasions.”
But make no mistake about it: Gottino and Terroir are those rare establishments that could be happy about a one-star review. Most likely, they were designed with no expectation of a starred Times review at all. It helps that both lend credence to Frank’s favorite meme, namely, “the increasing degree to which distinguished cooking pops up in the unconventional, informal settings that many food lovers often prefer.” Their menus are “unfussy compendia,” and they don’t “play by mustier rules.”
It also helps that both are Italian, which is always a guarantee of Frank’s attention—though not necessarily his love.
We took the one-star odds on both restaurants. On hypothetical bets of $1, we win $3 at Gottino and $2 at Terroir for a total of $5. Eater, which predicted zero and one star respectively, loses $1 at Gottino and wins $2 at Terroir, for a net of $1.
Eater NYJ Bankroll $90.50 $110.67 Gain/Loss +1.00 +5.00 Total $91.50 $115.67 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Won–Lost 42–20 45–17