Note: Pulino’s never really caught on, and closed at the end of December 2013. It was the first McNally restaurant ever to close. A French restaurant Cherche Midi, is expected to replace it.
My son and I had an early dinner at Pulino’s last week. Since we last visited, owner Keith McNally fired the opening chef, Nate Appleman, and replaced him with one of his corporate chefs, Tony Liu. Typical of McNally, he blasted the critics for under-appreciating the place, but by replacing the chef so soon, apparently acquiesced in their judgment.
Appleman was at least trying to serve interesting food, and for the most part he succeeded. In replacing Appleman, McNally has regressed to the mean. Pulino’s will always be dependable, if you don’t mind throngs of tourists and the crowded, generic, punishingly loud room. But it will never be destination cuisine—just a useful option if you happen to be in the neighborhood.
Ricotta Bruschetta ($12; above left) was curiously bland and didn’t come with enough bruschette. An off-menu special of Softshell Crab ($24; above right), lightly breaded and deep fried, was quite good. We didn’t try pizza, but those we saw at other tables were thicker than those Appleman served, rectifying a nearly universal complaint under the prior regime.
Add a beer ($7), two lemonades ($8), and a shared dessert (3 smallish scoops of gelati, $8), and you’re up to $59 before tax and tip, for not very much food. Pulino’s is not bad, by any means, but it no longer aspires to be great.
Pulino’s (282 Bowery at Houston Street, NoLIta)