I spent the day salivating over the reviews for L'Impero on this site, looking forward to my first meal there tonight. We navigated our way to the charming Tudor City, and sat down for a meal. The place is large, and packed on a late Wednesday night. We started with the seasonal roasted lobster (smoky, tender, buttery) and autumn salad (toasty mushrooms and rabbit), and moved on to the sublime (and new to the menu) veal-fontina-truffle ravioli and mushrooms that were simply overwhelmed by a fettucine-type pasta with little flavor. For entrees, the roast chicken with currants on polenta was as good a chicken dish as I've had in New York, but what makes me write was the tragically disappointing goat--after what I'd heard I expected it to be the highlight, but its admittedly balanced selection of textures was missing all flavor. The goat wasn't just bad, it was a non-entity, a sub-par preliminary draft of a dish. My friend's beef loin was almost as bland, notwithstanding the short ribs added for flavor. (Luckily there was plenty of chicken so we didn't starve.) We noted the problem to the server, who didn't seem to understand or care why we'd left most of our entrees uneaten. The desserts were everything we expected--delicious--but I would put in a word for the cheeses (particularly the bufala ricotta with truffle honey) too, which almost compensated for the lack of a savory entree.
This was my first time to L'Impero, so I cannot come to any final judgments. Everything lived up to the billing but the entrees, which were a significant deficiency--and the worst entrees cost an extra supplement to the fixed price menu. Given the shocking inadequacy of those very pricy entrees, and the waiter's apparent indifference, I have to wonder whether all the great press L'Impero received in the past few months has gone to its head.
Minus the entrees, the rest of the dishes may have been worth the price a la carte. Give it a shot for the starters/pastas/desserts, but if you want consistent quality in every course, I'd go to Babbo.