I waited until mid-afternoon to check out the “most important restaurant to open in mid-March.” By 2:30 pm, I assumed, the foodie blogosphere (Eater, Grub Street, Guest of a Guest, etc.) would have stumbled back to their offices from a boozie breakfast/lunch. But Pulino’s, Keith McNally’s new hot spot on the Bowery was still hoppin’ when I sat down at a corner table, stage right.
What could possibly be left to say after weeks of bloggie hyperventilating? Probably not much. But here it goes. While I’ll leave the food critiques to the professionals, I enjoyed my smoked sablefish, the Bianca Tradizionale (a pizza with mozzarella, pecorino, black pepper & pork strutto) — and a coma-inducing chocolate mousse. In most other respects, Pulino’s will seem very familiar to Schiller’s devotees. White subway tile. Check. Distressed mirrors. Check. Well stocked bar. Check. Communal washroom. Check. It will be interesting to see how the crowd evolves over time. There were obviously lots of curious industry types at Pulino’s today. The guy next to me was busy on his iphone advising a client about a wine buy (“the musacdet was so dry – I’d wait till summer”).
In their epic profile a couple of weeks ago, New York Magazine noted, “McNally’s feel for the next neighborhood has been uncanny, and the tally of places he opened in underserved neighborhoods, just before they exploded, is a history of Manhattan’s gentrification in the last three decades.” But Pulino’s in 2010 is not Schiller’s in 2003. Joining an intersection that was already home to DBGB and Whole Foods, gentrification in this section of the Lower East Side is nearly complete. We’ll leave the debate about whether that’s good or bad or both to the community board (and our commenters).
The truth is, McNally is not that easy to pigeon-hole. Last year, he joined preservationists in their campaign to protect the Bowery from over-development. At the same time, it’s hard to deny that his arrival on the corner of Bowery and Houston, is a big event that will have a major impact on the neighborhood.