Entries in Scarpetta (3)


The Payoff: Scarpetta

This week, Frank Bruni reviews Scott Conant’s greatest hits, finding their current home at Scarpetta worth a three very generous stars:

“Spaghetti, tomato and basil.” That’s all it says. That’s pretty much what it is. But however Mr. Conant is choosing and cooking the Roma tomatoes with which he sauces his house-made spaghetti, he’s getting a roundness of flavor and nuance of sweetness that amount to pure Mediterranean bliss…

More than that, it underscored the wisdom of his work at Scarpetta: he’s getting back to the tomato. I mean that not literally but figuratively, in the sense that Mr. Conant, whose cooking took a precious turn when he opened the restaurant Alto in 2005, is mining a more straightforward, soulful vein.

Here’s a reminder: The Bruni didn’t like Alto, finding it “haute and cold.” He awarded just two stars, which was an insult to a restaurant clearly designed for three. After Conant left, Bruni re-reviewed Alto and gave it the three stars it had deserved in the first place. Critics love to be vindicated. At Scarpetta, Conant has abandoned his excellent work at Alto, so Bruni says, “I told you so.”

Ironically, I am fairly certain that the owners of Scarpetta weren’t gunning for three stars. They’ll happily take them, but I’m sure a two-star verdict wouldn’t have carried anything like the disappointment it did at Alto. Scarpetta is a decent enough place, but it is well below any of the other Italian places that have won three stars from Bruni.

Give full credit to Eater, who correctly forecasted that Bruni’s Italian grading curve would be on full display this week. Eater wins $4 on a hypothetical one-dollar bet, while we lose $1.

              Eater          NYJ
Bankroll $97.50   $121.67
Gain/Loss +4.00   –1.00
Total $101.50   $120.67
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 46–21   48–19

Rolling the Dice: Scarpetta

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 Scott Conant’s comeback at the Meatpacking-adjacent Scarpetta. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows:

Zero Stars: 12-1
One Star: 5-1
Two Stars: 3-1
Three Stars: 4-1 √√
Four Stars:

The Skinny: We’re reasonably confident that Scarpetta was designed as a two-star concept. The prices, the vibe, the service, all say two stars.

On rare occasions, Bruni has awarded a third star that the restaurant itself probably never planned on, with Dovetail being the most recent example. But that doesn’t happen often. It’s hard enough to get three stars when you’re trying to. An unintended third star is a blessing granted to very few.

Working in Scarpetta’s favor is the two-star kiss that Bruni blew at Bar Milano just four weeks ago. In a way, it’s an insult to the obviously superior Scarpetta to be saddled with the same two stars. With Italian restaurants and Bruni, it never hurts to figure on a star more than the restaurant deserves.

But we know the Italian restaurants Bruni really liked—Babbo, Felidia, Del Posto, A Voce (under Carmellini) and Alto the second time around. We are hard pressed to put Scarpetta in that league. Our 1½-star review may have under-rated it, but we’ve seldom been that far away from Bruni’s assessment.

The Bet: We are betting that Frank Bruni will award a very enthusiastic two stars to Scarpetta.



[Kreiger via Eater]

Note: Scott Conant is no longer affiliated with the New York branch of Scarpetta, though he continues to “run” (I use the term loosely) the Scarpettas in other cities.


At the new Italian restaurant Scarpetta, we have another telling of the usual story these days: a former three-star chef in one or two-star surroundings.

Here, the former big-time chef is Scott Conant, who had five stars to his name between L’Impero (three, per Asimov) and Alto (the deuce, per Bruni). He left the two restaurants in 2007, consulted a while, and is now back in Manhattan at Scarpetta, on the edge of the Meatpacking District.

scarpetta_outside.jpgThe former Gin Lane space looks like a quiet country home on the outside, despite the Meatpacking madness just steps away. Indoors, there’s a large bar space for the bridge-and-tunnel set.

The dining room is decorated in a modern rustic chic, with mirrors fastened to the walls with leather saddle belts, and matching saddle leather placemats. A retractable roof could be delightful in the spring and autumn, but it was closed on a hot Saturday evening in June, so that the dining room could be air conditioned.

The exposed hard surfaces make Scarpetta a noisy restaurant when it is full—and full is how you’ll most likely find it, thanks to the sterling reputation that Conant brings with him. He’s serving the same seasonal modern Italian cuisine that brought him accolades at L’Impero.

Scarpetta, which means “little shoe,” has potential if the kitchen can work out some inconsistencies. Our first and second courses came out quickly, but we waited an eternity for the third, and we observed similar waits at other tables. When they finally came out, our entrées were somewhat disappointing.

Prices are in line with other restaurants in “former three-star chef” club, with appetizers from $11–17, pastas $22–25, and entrées $25–37. The server told us that appetizer-sized pasta portions were quickly dropped after opening, when they found the kitchen couldn’t keep up. That was apparently a wise move, since the kitchen still isn’t keeping up.

We fashioned a three-course meal by ordering an appetizer to share, followed by a pasta to share, followed by two entrées. The kitchen plated each of the first two courses as separate “half-orders” without being prompted.

scarpetta01a.jpg scarpetta01b.jpg

The bread service could quickly become addictive. Four kinds of homemade bread came with soft butter, an eggplant spread, and a pool of olive oil. Raw Yellowtail ($16) in sea salt and ginger oil had a bright taste, and there was a nice ring of fat around the fish, although the salt crust wasn’t spread as evenly as it should be.

scarpetta02a.jpg scarpetta02b.jpg

The second course, Agnolotti dal Plin ($24), was impeccable. Pasta pillows were filled with mixed meat and fonduta, with mushrooms and parmigiano.

scarpetta03a.jpg scarpetta03b.jpg

Neither entrée quite lived up to expectations. A Boneless Braised Veal Shank ($31) had been allowed to cook too long, and was slightly dry—still edible, but not as well executed as it should be. We loved the bone marrow & gremolata garnish, which was applied at tableside. Pacific Orata ($26) needed to have a crisper skin. I should note that both dishes had great potential. Neither was bad, and both could very well be winners in the long run.

The wine list emphasizes Italy and France, and there are plenty of bottles at reasonable prices. A 2000 Portulano was only $53.

For a restaurant as crowded as this, the serving staff did an excellent job of staying on top of things. This bodes well for Scarpetta, assuming that the kitchen can work out of its early growing pains. There is some very good food here, though no one should have the illusion that the quality or consistency matches the palmiest days at L’Impero.

Scarpetta (355 W. 14th Street, east of Ninth Avenue, Meatpacking District)

Food: ½
Overall: ½