Frank Bruni Farewell Party
Frank Bruni’s tenure as restaurant critic for the New York Times has spoiled me rotten. I’ve eaten with him at great restaurants and, even better sometimes, at terrible ones (more on that later). So as a small thank you, I threw a little party for him at the best party spot in the city, the third floor of the Spotted Pig.
You’re not supposed to talk about Pig’s third-floor parties. Here’s what little can be said.
* All kinds of people came to fête Frank, from one of my favorite Times political reporters, Katharine Seelye, to super-elite chefs like Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin.
* A debate over Frank's absolute-worst restaurant experience came down to a meal at the now-defunct Ago (which included a wine spill on Frank’s dinner companion, a 50-plus-minute table wait and very bad food) versus any dinner at the Japanese high-concept Ninja. The Ninja dinner “won.” (Frank confirmed that Ninja was his worst meal as a critic.)
* Some of the chefs who came to see Frank off (a.k.a. the ones who actually stayed in the city and worked before the long weekend) included Craft and Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio, Marea's Michael White and Sueños's Sue Torres, who represented the early shift. On the late shift: the Pig’s April Bloomfield, Locanda Verde’s Andrew Carmellini and Minetta Tavern’s Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson. There for the duration: Spotted Pig co-owner and party host nonpareil Ken Friedman and LaFrieda Meats' Mark Pastore.
* Sample conversation: Colicchio grilling Frank about the Times adopting a half-star system. While Colicchio argued that not all three-star restaurants are the same (David Chang’s name might have come up), Bruni countered that half stars mean you can’t make up your mind. Also up for discussion: how quickly Frank was recognized in some dining rooms (Locanda Verde might be the winner: From their open kitchen vista, Carmellini and sous chef Luke Ostrom spotted him even before the hostesses did).
* The party was a toast to his tenure as critic and not to his new book, Born Round. Not only did Frank politely decline to sign copies (for a few brown-nosing chefs and restaurateurs), but he also didn’t tell me that the book had just made the Times nonfiction best-seller list.