Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Harry Cipriani: You....You're not good

A savage, savage restaurant review from the NYT.

OVER the years the Cipriani restaurant family and its employees have faced charges of sexual harassment, insurance fraud and tax evasion, the last leading to guilty pleas by two family members in July.

But the crime that comes to mind first when I think of the Ciprianis is highway robbery. Based on my recent experience, that’s what happens almost any time Harry Cipriani on Fifth Avenue serves lunch or dinner.

In this gleaming room in the Sherry-Netherland hotel, the Ciprianis charge $22.95 for asparagus vinaigrette — 12 medium-size spears, neither white, truffle-flecked nor even Parmesan-bedecked — and $34.95 for an appetizer of fried calamari. That’s at dinnertime, I should clarify. At lunch there’s a whopping $1 discount per dish.

A dinner entree of fritto misto costs $48.95, even though it amounted to an extra-large portion of fried calamari with a few decorative shrimp and token scallops strewn, to negligible effect, among the generic calamari rings.

I assure you of the accuracy of those numbers, and of these: $66.95 for a sirloin, $36.95 for lasagna, $18.95 for minestrone. It’s tempting to devote the rest of this review to a price list. Nothing else I can present is nearly as compelling.

Besides, prices are the point of Harry Cipriani, which exists to affirm its patrons’ ability to throw away money.

It’s the epitome of a restaurant whose steep tariffs justify themselves, subbing for membership dues and assuring that the spouse, in-law, client or canine psychic being treated to a $16.95 piece of chocolate cake will be impressed.

Regulars accept and revel in this, or have bit by bit deluded themselves into believing that the $36.95 spaghetti with tomato and basil has something special to recommend it. (Trust me: it doesn’t.)

(Nod to Mr. Overwater)