Sometimes we take it a little too far. Sometimes in an effort to share our thoughts and ideas on a topic we lose sight of what we are really doing. Sometimes we get caught up in ourselves.
I enjoy a scathing review as much as the next guy. There is usually some good humor involved as when you’re tearing something down, rather than building it up, there are so many places you can take it. Cutting someone down is ALWAYS funnier than even the wittiest of compliments. In food writing it is increasingly difficult to come up with new words, comparisons, and descriptions of great food. Frankly, it is hard as fuck and I am not the first one to say it.
Recently Pete Wells, NY Time restaurant critic, laid into Michael White’s new pizzeria Nicoletta. It is, hands down, the most negative review of his young career as the Times Restaurant Critic, a position he inherited in November 2011. He hardly had a positive thing to say. I, unquestionably, respect his right to rip an establishment into tiny irreparable pieces. It is, in fact, his job. It cannot be all roses and sunshine. But with that said the whole piece felt a wee bit…..how you say….harsh.
The crust is as strong as epoxy, and Mr. White piles it up with an abundance of toppings that would buckle an ordinary pie.
This was the first time Mr. Wells really brought the hammer down. One reason is that if you look at the list of restaurants he has reviewed there is hardly a stinker in the bunch. He has spent the early days in this new post delighting in the cream of the crop: Roberta’s, RedFarm, Gwynneett St., Acme, Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, Pok Pok, Perla, Atera, La Bernadin, Isa, Empellan Cocina, and The Nomad. These are all esteemed restaurants (deservedly so) and highlight the fact that being a restaurant critic is damn good work - if you can get it. We should all be so lucky.
I assume that Mr. Wells wouldn’t have wasted his time with a pizzeria if Michael White’s name weren’t attached (a fact that brought me there as well, and a fact that possibly raised Mr. Wells expectations to unattainable heights). He possibly would continue his romp through New York’s finest using his talent (of which he has plenty) to shine the greats instead of using that same skill to artfully bemoan a restaurant that, at the end of the day, is not that bad. Hell, some would say it is actually pretty good.
Warmed up a day or two later, a Nicoletta crust is just as stiff and bland as when it was fresh from the oven.
I am not making accusations here. I am not claiming he wasted a few of his arrows on an undeserving target, or that he was possibly chomping at the bit for an unfavorable meal so he could finally stop being so damn nice (a restaurant critic CANNOT always be dropping accolades remember, that is not a good look). I am not sure if I am saying or even implying either of these. I just simply do not agree.
From time to time I get asked to write pieces for various websites and publications. I am always happy to. Every time. I love writing. I love celebrating the things in life that add value, that bring joy, and that break up the monotony of the day. I love giving credit where due. Inversely, I avoid the negative as much as possible, and I have been lucky and successful in never having to write anything that has left too many bodies in its wake. That pleases me…..but I am sure that will change. Someone will fail me in grand fashion and I will be left with little choice. However, when I do levy that unfriendly judgment the food will be abysmal. It will be made without care, love, or know-how. This is clearly not the case at Michael White’s Nicoletta.
But to each there own. Michael White, and more than likely every employee that works within the hallows of Nicoletta, will not go hungry due to a few negative words from one man’s unfortunate night out. No, the pies they will keep slinging and morning will turn into day and unto night, and back again. Yes, the world will keep spinning. Life will go on.
It was a vegetable pizza for people who hate vegetables. - Pete Wells
As I was walking into Nicoletta, on my first visit, a man in front of me (not an acquaintance I assure you) decided that a garbage can located conveniently enough on every single corner of the city wasn’t enough for him. He decided the sidewalk was his personal waste depository as well. He, before entering, retrieved the gum he was chewing from his mouth, balled it up real quickly between his thumb and forefinger, and dropped it behind him like a first baseman catching an out and heading to the dugout at the end of an inning, ditching the ball on route. It bounced to a halt as I stared at him and the rolling gum in that blatant judging way; the ‘what the fuck - we live in a society - you fucker’ look busted out all too often. He went on inside never the wiser. The truth is there is there is little I can ever do about something like that. People will do what they want. That’s the deal. They will do and say what they want, whether they are right or they are wrong.