So we cruised by Friday night on our way to another work-related meal, and what did we see? We’ll tell you what we didn’t see: an open Tarry Lodge. But things are moving apace on the site—the huge construction Dumpster has been replaced by another smaller one for perishables, the Tarry Lodge sign has been hung, and the painting crew was hard at work at 8 pm.
Tarry Lodge’s number, (914) 939-3111, was actually answered by a human when we called on Friday. She offered to take our name to alert us when the restaurant opens, in “a couple of weeks.” Our colleague, John Turiano, also stopped by on Friday and spoke to Chef Nusser, who assured him the same. Ugh.
In general, restaurants like to get in a few down/low nights before the hordes arrive—an impossibility now with the web. A friend of ours recently opened in Dobbs Ferry, and a blogger posted a critical “review” the next day. With live-time food blogs and sites like Chowhound, etc., a soft opening is virtually impossible in any highly anticipated restaurant. Unless its owners are able to bankroll a few, closed-to-the public, ‘Friends and Family’ nights (where staff practices on understanding, non-paying folks) when the doors open, it’s officially showtime. We’d be surprised if Tarry Lodge opened without many, many days of closed-door practice.
Nevertheless, here’s a word of warning: in a restaurant like Tarry Lodge, there is a huge pressure to get in early. Remember the press for X20? While we understand (and share) their excitement, it’s important to realize that the first month or two of a restaurant’s existence are hardly emblematic of its performance as a whole. While Chef Nusser, Batali, and Bastianich are old pros at opening restaurants, their staff is not — they’ll still be taking shaky baby steps with a brand new enterprise. If you’re among the first crowds to get in, be conscious of this before you bomb the blogospere with ‘caught-ya’ reports of kitchen and service goofs. OR wait a month or so until they’ve worked out some of the kinks, and are able to put their best foot forward. Our thinking is: if you’re going to go to Tarry Lodge, you might as well have the best experience your money can buy.
That said, start-up problems plagued the Batali/Bastianich train-station themed Otto www.ottopizzeria.com for way more than a few months. The main flaw—from a pizza lover’s point of view– was Batali’s hybrid pizza concept. Neither Neapolitan nor American in style, this pizza involved a dough recipe of Batali’s invention, and an ovenless cooking technique: it was slapped on a flat-top griddle. The weird, cardboardy result resulted in critical bewilderment, and even Joe Bastianich himself had to admit—as reported in Bill Buford’s Heat–that it “sits on my stomach like a rock.”
Of course, Chef Nusser had nothing to do with Batali’s iffy pizza concept at Otto. He was working on Casa Mono at the time, which was a drop-to-the-knees-and-rejoice hit as soon as it opened its doors. Chef Nusser’s approach at Tarry Lodge will be nowhere near as novel–or as disrespectful of tradition, depending on how you look at it—as Batali’s. He’s doing a fusion Neapolitan/Roman style pizza, cooked in an oven fueled by almond wood. His mozzarella is coming from Campagna, and we’re sure, given this crew, that the rest of his ingredients will be as carefully-sourced as everything else. The Nusser/Batali/Bastianich bunch are nothing if not food snobs. But remembering the pizza woes of Otto, I’m hoping that Batali is off chilling with BFFs Michael Stipe and Gwyneth Paltrow when it’s time to make Tarry Lodge’s pizza.
Otto’s start-up woes or not, we’re just dying to get into Tarry Lodge. Wonder if we can sneak in as a waiter?