I'm usually not susceptible to hype, but I was intrigued by what I imagined was an imaginative enterprise based, I presumed, on the principals' extensive sampling of Italy's best enotecas and their desire to import the authentic experience to NYC, albeit with some creative tweaking. I should have known better, having had at Babbo a perfectly acceptable, astronomically overpriced, overhyped meal.
I had misgivings immediately upon entering and noticing the excited and grateful crowd which looked like they'd feel right at home at Carmine's. And I almost left when I was parked at one of their perversely (and I presume intentionally) ergonomically mishappen and uncomfortable table and chairs.
In any event, our smarmy-hip waiter raved about everything -- "everything is great here", he said. We got the pecorino-egg pizza, which was good and satisfying (I'm a sucker for anything with a fried egg atop). And, at our waiter's behest, we ordered the chile, clam, garlic and mozzarella pizza. There wasn't the slightest trace of chile or garlic, the mozzarella was devoid of flavor, and the clams, housed obnoxiously in their shells and spilling brine over limp crust, amounted to the stupidist disaster of a pizza I've ever had. And by the way, the $12 glass of red wine, which was otherwise excellent, was served in a kind of micro-tumbler which imparted the taste of RIP-OFF.
The chocolate ice cream was disgustingly sweet, the vanilla just right, and the olive oil and salt ice cream was fun and very good. The cappuccino was shamefully wan and inept.
Now to the very worst part of the experience, the appetizer. I ordered the octopus salad. But I SWEAR, it looked, smelled, felt, and tasted like canned white solid tunafish. They even added celery to emphasize the comparison. I sent it back and even asked to talk with the manager to find out if it was really some sort of joke, whether it really WAS canned tunafish. The manager couldn't care less, preoccupied as he was with processing the crush of humanity eager to sample Batali's pricey slop.