I had a special guest in from out of town that I wanted to take to one of the better new restaurants in NYC. He is in the wine business so we also wanted a place that would allow us to bring our own wine. After going to Lo Scalco 2 days before to talk to the chef/owner Mauro Mafrici I felt we were in for a fabulous time. We arrived with ours wines in tote as scheduled. As we were looking over the wines to be poured, the sommelier (whos name has already, thankfully, eluded me) sneered in our direction. I dismissed this as a one off and she could easily have been looking at something else. As she walked by the table I asked her if we would be able to decant the 2 whites we were about to pour (the 1997 Domaine D'Auvenay Meursault Narvaux and the 1999 Peter Michael Winery Chardonnay la Carriere). Looking as if I just kicked her puppy she snapped back @ me and said These are white wines and need not decanting! I Am a master sommelier and I should know.. I said that the gentleman who bought them wished them to be decanted and she huffed off to retrieve the decanter. Upon returning, one of the gentlemen in my party asked me what the problem was and I said that the sommelier looked at me strangely when I asked her to decant the whites. At that point she glared at me from the other side of the table and yet again spouted that Sir, I am a master sommelier, I know what I am doing. With that she was gone and we did not, thankfully, see her until the end of our dinner. Now here is the kicker. All the wines were pristine in condition except for the 1987 Penfolds Grange Hermitage South Australia Bin 95. I was clearly and unmistakably corked. Upon discovery, the temptation was too great not to pour the sommelier a glass and get her thoughts. She smelled (1st telltale) and tasted (2nd) the wine to which she commented, How lovely it was, besides the hard acids. She even made to point to stop by the table 2 minutes later to tell us how persistent the wine was. One could argue she was being polite and allowing the customer to be satisfied. If that were the case she would have had the grace and dignity earlier in the evening and not pounded her chest proclaiming, I AM A MASTER SOMMILER OF THE UNIVERSE
OK, that maybe a slight embellishment, but not far off mind you.
On to the rest of the evening. The space Lo Scalco occupies is very understated elegant. It can tend to be a little noisy but not overly so. The staff needs a lot of practice. I have read other reviews about a lack of service so I do not feel like this is unfair. There was too many times where we needed to pour our own wine or ask for more glasses. One thing that may remedy this is to do away with mandatory tips for larger parties. What do they have to work for when they know that they will be receiving a 20% tip at the end regardless of performance?
The food was outstanding. I have read other reviews about the style of cooking that Mauro employs. What people need to understand is that this is not you typical Italian restaurant but rather a more modern approach to different types of Italian cuisine. It is, if you will, nuevo-Ital-cusine and it certainly is not for everybody. I found it to be excellent 90% of the time. All dishes were perfectly plated and served at proper temperature. And yes, like a lot of the criticisms I have read, many of the dishes are itty-bitty (especially the oxtail and gnocchi, yes gnocchi in singular!). And the most refreshing aspect of the restaurant itself was chef Mafrici. There are too many restaurants in NYC that have an executive chef who spends more time rubbing elbows than cooking. Mauro exudes pride and passion for his art and must be commended for that. And most of his creations shine brightly, like his personality. Yet I am not sure if I would return. One way I would return is to know that the sommelier had taken the night off. Or better yet