C, E at Spring St.
Three-course prix fixe, $85; five courses, $105; seven courses, $125
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This venue is closed.
For the city’s grizzled, increasingly nostalgic band of restaurant critics, the arrival of a credentialed European chef in town is still a moment of some occasion. And while Fabio Trabocchi is no Gordon Ramsay, his credentials are pretty good. He is the winner of a James Beard award and has run acclaimed restaurants in Italy, London, and Washington, D.C. He has published a glossy cookbook and is fond of giving his intricately flavored dishes portentously simple titles like “Il Risotto” (“The Risotto”) and “Il Foie Gras” (“The Foie Gras”). He has a personal philosophy of cooking, which he expounds on the restaurant’s Website. Trabocchi was hired by Hanson in July 2007, and to celebrate the arrival of the new chef, and further refresh the five-year-old restaurant, Hanson brought in the designer Jeffrey Beers, who proceeded to install newly upholstered banquettes and cover a wall in rare Venetian eel skin.
When Trabocchi’s complicated recipes are good, they’re very good. When they fail, they tend to fail in a fussy, overcomplicated way. My portion of skate (“La Razza”) was muffled in little octopus tentacles and an unctuous slick of red-wine sauce, and the suckling pig was layered with such a baffling array of ingredients (artichokes, fennel pollen, and dill) that it had no porky taste at all. On the other hand, Trabocchi’s veal entrée is an intense, almost Chinese-style agglomeration of textures and flavors (veal cheeks and rib eye all mixed with trumpet mushrooms, buttery mashed potatoes, and toasted hazelnuts from Alba), and if you enjoy baby goat, “Il Capretto” is an excellent aristocratic interpretation of that tricky peasant dish. The desserts attempt to be equally flamboyant, but the best of them, curiously, is the simplest. It’s the round, insanely rich brown-butter cake, crowned with apple butter and a scoop of melting ricotta gelato.
Il Carpaccio, pasta with sardines, veal or roast goat, brown-butter cake.