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Jul 22, 2006 10:47 PM

i Trulli Restaurant Week disappointment

Yet another place treats Restaurant Week diners as second-class citizens. This was the first season in some years I've experimented with Restaurant Week, and it might be the last, as the disappointments and frustrations with restaurants that seriously cut corners and create a completely unrepresentative menu far outnumber the satisfactory experiences.

I'm really pissed at i Trulli. I've enjoyed sampling wines and eating cured meats, appetizers and pastas at this Pugliese restaurant's next-door enoteca, but I'd never dined in the main room. I saw Restaurant Week as an opportunity and was gravely disappointed. I Trulli's approach was to offer a decidedly second-class selection for the prix-fixe. In the appetizer department they really missed the boat. I have no idea why they didn't offer one of their house specialties, the typically Apulian panzerotti (small, fried calzones stuffed with mozzarella and tomato). The appetizer I ordered was a charred lamb salad with cucumbers, black olives and fried chick peas. It was good, and while it might be a preparation from Puglia it was much more Middle Eastern than Italian in taste. The main course was a disaster. First of all, one of the selections was a fish of the day over a tomato-bread salad. I asked what the fish was and was told it was cod. I hate cod. Is there a more tasteless fish with a less appealing texture? But cod was the fish of the day in steerage only; the first-class passengers (i.e. the a la carte diners)were offered branzino, the delicious Mediterranean sea bass, that night. Another entree was skirt steak over a faro salad. Now I have nothing against skirt steak, but it's not what you serve your special guests (as I was walking down Park Avenue toward the subway I noticed that Barbounia, the newish Mediterranean restaurant in the old Patria space, also had skirt steak on the R.W. menu). The dish I ended up ordering was a cut below mediocre. It was cavatelli, the typical Pugliese pasta dumpling, with a Sicialian pesto (a tomato-almond sauce) and "sauteed shrimp." The shrimp were tiny, dry and tasteless, more appropriate as fish bait than a dinner ingredient. They really should have offered their excellent cavatelli with broccoli rabe and almonds instead, which also would have made the menu more vegetarian-friendly. On a happier note, the torta di mandorle (almond cake with balsamic strawberries and strawberry sorbet) I had for dessert was wonderful. Despite the sweet dessert the dinner left a sour taste in my mouth, and to the owners of i Trulli I say screw you and your codfish and fishbait shrimp.

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  1. I can't comment about your specific meal at i Trulli (I've eaten there once, and wasn't impressed at all).

    But I have a different point of view about a restaurant's obligation at RW. I think the most appropriate response from the restaurant *is* to offer less costly products while showcasing the talents of the kitchen. I don't see the need for a restaurant to use RW as a loss-leader.

    If the shrimp on the pasta was dry and tasteless, that's obviously a bad thing. No excuse for bad prep.

    1. I agree with Dave. I went to Fives and posted about it. The beef medallions were of a horrible quality. I would have much rather been offered pork or chicken as a RW choice. Please by all means offer less expensive items, but prepare them well so that I will want to come back. I do not expect restaurants to lose money during these weeks. The idea is for customers to return after RW is over bec. they have had such a good experience. I have done that with EMP. My first meal there was during RW and I still think they do one of the best RW meals.

      2 Replies
      1. re: G3B


        1) i Trulli is a big place and is not on the food fashionistas' most-fetishized restaurant list. Would they have been full on a summer Thursday at 7 PM? I don't know.

        2) Devi had no trouble offering some of their most elaborate appetizers or top quality lamb chops and tiger prawns as main courses.

        3) New York's most successful restaurants can afford to give something back. Some restaurants offer deeply discounted early prix-fixe specials without losing money. Perhaps a prime time blackout period from 7-9:30 could be an option for some restaurants. A bit off topic, but as far as early specials go, restaurants, like hotels and airlines, know that an empty table is less profitable than a full one with people at it, even at a lower margin. Perhaps we need a Priceline for restaurants!

        4)Though I couldn't get a reservation, Union Square Cafe's lunch menu was far from chintzy:


        Pappa al Pomodoro – Tuscan Tomato & Bread Soup with Basil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

        “Corn Ricotta” & Prosciutto Bruschetta with Stone Fruit, Arugula and Sycamore Farm Sweet Corn

        Grilled Portabello Mushroom, Baby Spinach & Shaved Fennel Salad with Grana Padano and Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette

        Frascatelli Genovese – Handmade Durum Wheat Dumplings with Green Beans, Potatoes and Pesto Cream


        Grilled Swordfish with Eggplant Mashed Potatoes and Sicilian-Style Tomato, Orange & Olive Salad

        Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Chicken Skewers with Lemon-Basmati Rice and Greenmarket Radish Raita

        Summer Fried Fish Basket with “Tartar Slaw” and Pickled Vegetables

        Berkshire Pork Shoulder Confit with Grilled Vidalia Onions, Rosemary Roasted Potatoes and Peach Chutney


        Mississippi Mudd Pie with Kahlúa Whipped Cream

        Strawberry-Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta with Basil Syrup and Greenmarket Strawberries

        Chocolate Fudge Cake with Black Mint Crème Anglaise

        Blueberry Tart with Lemon Curd and Blueberry Syrup

        5) Not participating is an option.

        1. re: Peter Cherches

          During RW, the very best choices have Danny Meyer in their ownership. Yes, there are others but you can count on a great RW experience at any of Danny's restaurants. He knows how to "give back" and we give in return. Agree about Devi--great RW menu.

      2. I love i trulli's wine store. I've taken many of their classes which are very well structured and presented. I really enjoy the Enoteca.

        The restaurant is terrible.

        The food is inexplicably expensive and underwhelming. (never bad, mind you)

        The service is spotty, at best.
        When a couple sits down to a $200 meal, it should be with a server who speaks and understands English well, can describe some of the food and wine being offered, and doesn't look like he doubles as dishwasher when he's not taking orders poorly.

        I used to defend i Trulli, but the last time I went there I was insulted by the service, food and price of my meal.

        The shame is that the space is beautiful their wine list is among the best I've seen.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chow Baby

          My server spoke English very well. He was African American.

          I will stick with the wine bar. The enoteca food is good, though I'm disappointed that they no longer serve appetizers from the main menu. There was a stuffed squid that was really amazing last summer.