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.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Al di La: One Point for Brooklyn Braggadoccio

It is time for me to make public what everyone in my close circle of friends knows: if you ever need a dining partner for Al di La, an intrepid, obtuse companion willing to sign on for a 2-hour wait in the shivering cold (or alternately, more than willing to duck into a lezzie bar across the street), call me. I will drop the baby I was in the middle of delivering, or lob the volatile atom I was carefully tucking away into a nuclear safely vault, and come running to you, arms wide open, a tripe-seeking boner cramping my jeans and leading the way down 5th ave.

Frank’s become notorious for giving out 2-star ratings with the indiscriminate vigor of a suburban lawn-sprinkler. While strictly, my undertaking here is to stand behind the Count as he talks and make fart noises and stupid faces, I have to step out of bounds today and say, “Shit, bitch. Give ‘em all the stars your little heart desires. I love that place.” My excitement exceeds Frank's: his very earnest rapture this week is lexically restrained…or reserved, perhaps, for his fist-pumping, proletarian cry of outrage against $45 glasses of wine and other hidden costs.

"I mean, $18 extra on a $65 pre-opera prix-fixe just for DOMESTIC foie? It's time for barricades, people."

Frank begins, “Food lovers who live in Brooklyn, especially food lovers who moved there from Manhattan, love to say that they have better restaurants, ones that wed equally fine food to a humility often absent in the taller, shinier, haughtier borough across the water.”

No fair! No one will ever be as tall and shiny as Staten Island! (ZING)

When we Brooklynites gloat about our borough’s food, Frank is smiling in our faces and inwardly applying his Brooklynites’ Opinion Conversion Chart:

Brooklynite X Level of Boro Pride = Credibility X -1,000,000,000

“Sometimes these people are simply falling prey to local pride and grading on a generous curve.”
Well, it's better to fall prey to local pride in Brooklyn than to fall prey to a local pride in the Serengeti, that's for sure.

Poor Renee.

Frank had been resisting Al di La. Why ever?

“One reason was practical: it doesn't take reservations, and I wasn't wild about traveling to Park Slope to wait an hour or more…” Boo hoo. They take your cell phone number and you hit up a lezzie bar until they’ve got room for you. Mayhaps this appeals to me more than to Frank?

Awww, Jules’ christening!

“Another reason was journalistic: the charms of Al di Là weren't exactly secrets (hence those waits), so what purpose did a fresh look serve?”
Meanwhile, Frank's scrupulous investigations of Spigolo, Frederick’s of Madison, Bette, and recent restaurant Toilet Trends have shed great light on the impact of U.S. intervention in the Middle East.

But the third reason Frank avoided Al di La, I can certainly sympathize with: it’s the same reason I avoid “Lost” and “24.” Everyone’s SOOOOOO fucking into it and you feel like you’ll NEVER catch up and you’re totally alienated in idiot silence around the water cooler, and it’s like, you try, but these insane plotlines make you feel about as perceptive as a dolphin who’s recently had its head run over by a speedboat.

"Lost" script goes through its final editing stages at ABC headquarters.

OK, I’m off topic a bit, but the point is, when everyone is so unanimously in love with something, it makes you want to dig your heels deep into a trench of annoyed skepticism, even, as Frank says, “pure stubbornness: so many Brooklyn friends were so smug in asserting that this little Italian gem was the ideal neighborhood restaurant. Even if they were right, I didn't want to grant them that.”

Why would you? Those oaty Brooklynites would have taken their pride to the streets, inciting lord knows what kind of organic, child-friendly violence.

Only minutes before being sniped by a Manhattan SWAT team, this Brooklynite's drum circle was dangerously smug.

The food isn’t perfect—as per usual, there’s a dry chicken among the missteps. But on the whole, Frank digs the reliable, unaffected fare. And he points out the best tripe on the island, in my opinion at least:

“Al di Là has also been doing its tripe appetizer since the beginning, and I hope it will do its tripe appetizer until the end. Blissfully slimy and appropriately chewy, the tripe is cooked and served in a bath of white wine, soffritto and tomatoes, with grilled peasant bread that you can, and should, use to mop up the liquid remnants.”

Mop the liquid remnants… Nice one, Cyrano de Bergerac. Delicately put. Sounds more like what you do if a fourth grader pukes in the computer lab.

"Not another one...They have GOT to stop studying flight simulators..."

But either way, we’re agreed that the maneuver’s pretty essential.

In conclusion, "Al di Là, whose name is a kind of Italian double entendre, referring literally to 'the other side' and figuratively to the great beyond, beckons and rightfully attracts food lovers from far and wide, their local prejudices trumped by its universal appeal."

In other words: “You weren’t just being your cozy, prideful selves again, Brooklyn; this place is great. Now go to the Food Co-Op and roll in some trail mix while I retreat to my chateau to tickle my fanny with the tattered pages of a classic novel."
Man, it just makes me feel small and hanicapped.

And now, if you'll excuse me, my ride is here.


Blogger Justin Kreutzmann said...

OK, note to self, next time in new York call Jules and go to this mythical Al di La.

Though, in addiction, try and pull some strings as to avoid the 2 hour wait outside.

3:33 PM, January 16, 2006  
Blogger arnheim Lieber said...

Shoot! I'll go out to Park Slope just to hang out in the lezzie bars! Can you say bull dyke in Italian?

7:35 PM, January 16, 2006  
Anonymous audaxminor said...

"Mop the liquid remnants" made me laugh out loud! What a great pin prick in that pompous windbag! Brava!

9:52 PM, January 16, 2006  
Blogger Jules said...

People really take you up on declarations like the one I made, turns out. I went to Al di La last night and it was tripe-licious, as usual. Although I drank WAY. TOO. MUCH. (The fault of their perilously affordable/interesting wine list.)

6:39 PM, January 17, 2006  
Blogger Ben said...

Hey this is actually Kate. I cried laughing as I read this, and then cried crying bc I got realllly homesick. Can we all go there when we get home? Preeeease?

1:32 PM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger Jules said...

Wow Kate! Checking in all theway from Georgia-the-Country!

Yes, when you get home, we can definitely have some Al di La. I'm a biatch of my word, you know that.

2:19 PM, January 24, 2006  

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