The Bruni Digest

In which I sit on a dirt mound somewhere in Brooklyn with my ears pricked, waiting for New York Times head restaurant critic Frank Bruni, who I imagine to be a Venetian count in a huge ruffled collar, to dole out stars from the inside breast pocket of his brocaded chamber robe. This blog is predicated on the suggestion that every Wednesday, in the Times Dining Out section, Frank lays a huge faberge egg of hilarity.

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Location: New York, New York, U.S. Outlying Islands

I am fiscally irresponsible, which means I have weak bones and a dorsal fin. And a penchant for dining out, even though I am, in the words of many rich people, a "poor people". I make a different face when speaking each of the foreign languages in which I am shittily proficient.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

English is Italian: Is the Olive Garden

For being such a man-about-town, the count OBVIOUSLY hasn't heard about Batali’s newest in the pipeline, a Gaelic venture called “Foamyshanks is Pukey” slated to open next month. Frank pre-emptively gives the "award for most peculiar restaurant name of 2005" to Todd English's "English is Italian."


Foamyshanks consulting team member.

But as Todd English crosses the stage in his Vera Wang gown to accept the award, he notices that Bruni is in fact proffering him a flaming paper bag of poo: English is Italian, Frank booms into the mic, is “a loser.”

English is Italian “cries out for explanation - the name, that is...-and one can readily be found in the chef's family tree.”

You see, the name, like the child of a circus performer and a legal proofreader, is awkwardly trying to bridge two different traditions.


Additionally, Todd’s great grandfather named his daughter “Baby is a Girl,” whose own two sons, What Time Is It English and the irascible Hey Man Your Car Got Towed English, carried on the tradition. His Yahoo password is actually a paragraph, and instead of naming his Dachshund, English just stapled a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses to its face.

"City is a Town," Todd's birthplace. None of this is true obviously.

Well that explains that. And what explains the dark, dark night which is this zero-star review? English is Italian is a glorified Olive Garden, a “perfunctory bit of brand extension.”

Yow. Brand extension is right. Frank makes this place sound like a crass corral for indiscriminate face-stuffing.

“English Is Italian promises to relieve diners of the burden of ordering by simply presenting them with platter upon platter of antipasti, pasta dishes and main courses, all to be passed around and shared.” It’s sort of like a Villanova frat boy-turned-banker’s bachelor party, but with mediocre starches instead of conspicuously Asian Swedish masseusses culled from the Village Voice.

This is…Ingrid. She’s…nevermind.

But the result? A little TOO much fun:

“Soon into each of my meals at English Is Italian, the table turned into a chaotic buffet, a cramped cornucopia of too much commotion, too many competing flavors and too few serving utensils. On the increasingly muddied plates in front of me and my friends, rightfully estranged sauces would mingle...”

Hm, so THAT’s why they never mix raspberry coulis with hollandaise: the two estranged sauces had an affair in 1983, hollandaise gave raspberry the hep, raspberry siphoned hollandaise’s equity holdings into Swiss lockboxes for 8 years and shot his shitzu with a crossbow when he threatened divorce.

Adios, Luis.

“Service at English Is Italian was too often sloppy and occasionally inexplicable. On one of my visits, a bartender held an empty wineglass up to the light, frowned at the profusion of visible fingerprints and other smudges on it, then filled it with Chianti anyway and handed it to me.”

OBVIOUSLY the server was wise to Frank's identity, and to his repeated confessions of a love for booze, and was offering him the "Blueblood special," whereby fingerprints are subtly left on the glass in order to justify an ample douse of Windex into the cocktail. (Trust, it's like Diesel, you can barely taste it.)

"This Chianti is delicious. I can't feel my face."

Well, heck, get into the spirit! After all, the Count concedes that the place is “something of a bargain,” at all-you-can-eat for $39!

And by “eat” I mean “suffer” and by “concede” I mean “use weirdly religious language, as usual, to talk about sinning flesh and redemption”:



To quote from Frank's illuminated manuscript, one saintly ravioli “could not redeem a dish of pasta shells, … an outrageous exercise in senselessly gooey overkill. The ravioli could not wipe clean the watery sins of a mushroom risotto or the bland shortfall of dry tagliatelle with a wimpy meat sauce…”

Let's hope Todd English isn't as wimpy as his meat sauce, 'cause this is getting personal:

“Mr. English is going to use the name of this restaurant to describe himself accurately, he should stretch out the sentence to include a few more adjectives.”

OH DAMN! OH SNAP!

“He could add inconsistent and inattentive and keep his assonance intact.”

From where I'm standing, looks like Todd's assonance anything but intact.

Goodnight and godspeed.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No but seriously? Child of legal proofreader & circus performer: that is the best image of all time.

3:53 PM, May 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"baby is a girl" I am peeing my pants

12:19 AM, May 16, 2005  
Blogger stellaforstar said...

i just don't understand how you make me laugh SO HARD week after week.

2:12 PM, May 16, 2005  
Blogger Backyard Chef said...

"hollandaise gave raspberry the hep"...

I don't know how you do it, but don't stop! Much needed funnies....thanks!

12:25 PM, June 01, 2005  

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