Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Frank Bruni Gets in on Pizza Crawl

Look what we started! In today's New York Times: The Cult of the Artisanal Pizza - Crust Is a Canvas for Pizza's New Wave, with comments on nearly a dozen new New York pizzerias. Can't wait for the "What does Bruni know about pizza?" chorus from the NY pizzerati to begin.


  1. Petronius ArbiterJuly 8, 2009 at 7:45 AM

    Too much philosophical digression and not enough specifics in that review.

    Interesting that he came to the same conclusion as we have that it is hard to find much distinction in crust flavor.

    And a strange affinity between Frank Bruni and 2top. Was the "popeye" pizza concept really the best he could find to rhapsodize about?

  2. Coincidence? Perhaps. But everyone wants in on pizza (and burgers, BBQ, etc.) now. Even the New Times has caught on. But as I read their blog post about Pizza Volante, it was interesting to note that the blogger offhandedly stated that the owner bought him his pizza. So I was wondering Frod, in light of the long discussion on your blog over ethics recently, does the New Times have one set of ethics for print and another for online? I've noticed several posts where the blogger says his meal was paid for by the restaurant and then he writes a gushing review. Coincidence? Perhaps. Frod, are we due for another ethics discussion? (Speaking of which, what is FFT's policy on accepting free meals?) Thanks!

  3. Danny - I don't know what New Times' official policy is, but I have seen multiple instances in Short Order (their online food blog) where comps are disclosed. I suspect the answer would be that Short Order doesn't do "reviews" but rather is more "profiles," etc. And, to be fair, I don't really perceive the Short Order stuff to be reviews and have no expectation that anyone is dining anonymously, etc., and so it really doesn't bother me.

    As for me? It's a good and fair question, and probably one I should provide a clearer answer to somewhere on the site other than in a comment thread. But here goes:

    - I pay for all my meals at restaurants that I review.
    - I have occasionally been offered free meals at places seeking to be reviewed (sometimes it's put a little more subtly than that) and I consistently decline such offers.
    - I have on rare occasion participated in (comped) pre-opening type dinners that have been on invite to other media and blogger-types. If I write about such a meal, I will disclose that it was comped. If I subsequently write about the place during a paid visit, I will hopefully remember and disclose that I'd previously had a comped meal there.
    - I did not pay to eat in the kitchen during my recent Paradigm excursion.
    - It is not unusual at places where I'm a regular for the chef to send out an extra dish or two on the house. No doubt some of them, despite my use of a pseudonym here and on Chowhound, know "who I am." To relieve any feelings of moral compromise, I generally try to add the value of whatever I've received to the tip.
    - Needless to say, I suspect the waitstaff are big fans of this arrangement.
    - You are always welcome to buy me dinner.

  4. It's funny that you were so puffed up about ethics a few short weeks ago, and now you "...have no expectation that anyone is dining anonymously, etc., and so it really doesn't bother me." Et tu, Frodnesor? Switched teams already? The life of a blog post, eh? Well at least Short Order has it right-the first and foremost job of a blogger is to glom free shit. I believe that is eGullet's first rule, no?

    "- You are always welcome to buy me dinner."
    Yeah I guess I owe you one. Let's go to a molecular gastronomy restaurant. Your choice.

  5. Danny - I know you've been waiting for that "gotcha" moment, but I don't think I've changed my stripes. When I first raised the issue, I proposed two rules (for myself at least): (1) be honest; (2) don't be a douche. I hope I've stayed true to those at least.

    You may have misread or overstated my comment above about "expectations that anyone is dining anonymously, etc.". I was speaking there not generally as to all food writers, but specifically to the Short Order bloggers, as to whom I have no expectation or perception that they are behaving like or seek to be regarded as "critics." I'm OK with that because I know what to expect.

    If there's anything I've been "puffed up" about, it would be stuff like Mariani's, where I think there's a gap between the perception and the reality. Set aside for a moment the question of comping, which appears to no longer be an issue. The fact that he pre-announces his presence to restaurants that he's visiting means that what he's evaluating is which restaurant can put on the best "command performance," not necessarily what a typical dining experience is like. But I would never know this from reading his annual list of "Best New Restaurants."

  6. First let me say that my 'gotcha' moment with you was when you started this blog, sucka.

    "The fact that he pre-announces his presence to restaurants that he's visiting means that what he's evaluating is which restaurant can put on the best "command performance," not necessarily what a typical dining experience is like. But I would never know this from reading his annual list of "Best New Restaurants."

    But of course you know this because his M.O. is well-known, to you and everyone else, as you just said so in the previous freakin' sentence!

    And your defense of The New Times is touching, by the way, especially after you excoriated them ad nauseum for their 'Best Of' list. Touching, and somewhat puzzling. So if you, Frod, have no expectations, then it's ok for anyone to do what they want, ethically? Except Mariani? Sounds like a double standard to me.

    And Frod, I'm afraid you have violated your rule #2 by huffing and puffing about ethics, creating a BS controversy where none existed, and then conveniently not giving a shit 'cause you are over it. And I say that because you have actually made Steve Plotnicki look good. And there can be no better definition of being a douche then making Plotnicki look good.

    So I can safely say, from one douche to another, you are down to 'be honest'.

  7. No expectations? Double standard? I think I have different expectations (and, yes, maybe different standards) depending on the context.

    If it's an online blog entry (whether affiliated with a print newspaper or not) to the effect of "This place just opened, I took some pix, they gave me a burger and it was awesome!" ... well, good to know but I'm not going to rely on it all that much. Incidentally, I don't see that much in the way of "reviews" on Short Order, it really does seem more often to be picture essays, personality profiles, recycled corny jokes, etc. Plus, anyone who sets foot in Happy's Stork Lounge deserves a free beer if one is offered.

    If it's a review by a restaurant critic in an old-timey print newspaper, I'm going to hope that the writer is sticking fairly closely to the AFJC guidelines. Whether or not I agree with or rely on their opinion is a different matter.

    If it's an online review on a blog, I'm going to hope the writer gives me some indication of what rules if any they're following. If they don't, I can usually read a few entries and get a decent sense of where they're coming from, and I can judge credibility myself.

    If it's a "best of" list, I'm going to naively assume that the writer is actually making a genuine effort to identify the very best places. I will be frustrated, and may kvatch some, if it turns out that their judgment is affected by other factors, i.e. "We have to pick someone new every year just to keep it interesting" (New Times) or "I may not know what this restaurant is really like because they know they're cooking for a guy who's writing a 'best of' list" (Esquire). And I don't think "everyone else" knows Mariani's M.O. - in fact I'd venture a guess that 75% of the readership of Esquire has no clue.

    You Plotnicki comment really hurts. I didn't think I was capable of that.

    Speaking of Esquire - less Mariani, more Mary Louise Parker!

  8. "Speaking of Esquire - less Mariani, more Mary Louise Parker!"

    That is one persuasive argument, Frod. Back to what really matters.

    Sorry if the Plotnicki comment hurt-you know you only hurt the ones you love.

  9. In fairness to myself, I think it was Steven Shaw who managed to make Plotnicki look good.

  10. Speaking of Fat Guy, Shaw told me his next book project is on molecular gastronomy :)