By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
By Sara Ventiera
Carpaccio is a great excuse to eat raw beef in a world where the wrong bite of anything uncooked threatens to leave you, at best, hovering over a toilet or, at worst, hooked up to a breathing machine. At Primanotte, the filet is shaved gossamer-thin. Carpaccio is a delicate treat that dissolves in your mouth and should leave you blissful. This one had all the right ingredients in all the wrong proportions: too much lemon -- was the chef trying to marinate the raw meat... just in case? Too little extra virgin olive oil; in fact, none at all. And handfuls of second-rate parmesan cheese, big greasy shavings instead of a light dusting of the inimitable, gritty Reggiano that brings any dish closer to the sublime. Not inedible by a long shot, but not good enough to risk contracting Mad Cow either.
Service was spiffy -- wine glasses replenished often, entrées arriving on schedule. A fat, robust veal chop ($26.95) on its long, unwieldy rib came decorated with a festive tinfoil tail. Grilled medium-rare, so tender it should be illegal, this baby was perfect. But the kitchen had smothered the poor thing with an inch-high blanket of goat cheese -- tarting up a gorgeous face with the Easter hat from hell. We scraped it off. A dab of it was yummy mixed with the sautéed spinach. A side dish of penne alla vodka was nothing special.
And then we knew what was wrong. This kitchen is deathly afraid to let a plate of food just be. You can't taste the olive oil for the garlic, the raw beef for the parmesan, the veal for the cheese. This menu is like a bright child with a micromanaging stage mother who won't leave the kid alone for two seconds.
Our plate of homemade agnolotti rosa ($13.95, straight off Café Vico's menu) was another case of overkill. Creamy, dense pasta stuffed with creamy ricotta cheese and chopped spinach was doused with creamy tomato cream sauce. Boy, was it creamy! It could have used some contrast; that agnolotti would have been just dandy with a quick, tart tomato sauce. Or a stronger cheese. Or even a more balanced sauce to draw out the tomato's acidity. Rich, filling, and about as interesting as a nursery pudding.
Meanwhile, the diners around us were raving. One young stud pushed back his plate and announced to his lovely: "That was the best meal I've ever had." If she marries him, she's forewarned. At the table of three behind us, after working through the story of his ex-wife's suicide, a playboy with a beauty on each arm sang lengthy praises to his pasta.
Was it just us? Are we so jaded, so gluttonous, so irredeemably spoiled and snooty that we just don't like anything anymore?
No dice. Our hovering waiters had completely disappeared, and we were left picking parsley flakes off the linen. We finally managed to obtain a dish of tiramisu ($5.95), passing up the ricotta cheesecake and the lemon ice, figuring the ubiquitous old standby would settle the score. A fine tiramisu can wipe a mediocre meal completely off the memory's books; it's the eternal sunshine of desserts.
This one was a one-trick pony, its only trick the flavor of heavily sweetened refrigerator.