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L'impero

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Ov-er-ra-ted! (Clap-Clap-ClapClapClap)

The Post returned to an evergreen feature idea today, every editor’s best friend: the “overrated” list. Since our philosophy has always been to slavishly ape the Post in every way short of peppering our posts with the phrase “tot-slay suspect,” we thought we might add a few of our own. Since the Post didn’t limit itself to specific dishes at specific restaurants, we won’t either. Here are a few things that we find ourselves less than overawed with these days.

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Who Will Win the Golden Clog?

Culinary writer and BFF to the stars Michael Ruhlman has announced the Golden Clog awards, a new unofficial contest, with multiple chef categories. The winners will be announced, no doubt with much facetious fanfare, at this year’s South Beach Food & Wine Festival. The categories are as follows:
FERGUS AWARD — for best achievement in offal.
ALTON AWARD — for the food personality who can actually cook.
MARIO AWARD — for the chef-restaurateur who best multitasked, merchandised, multiplatformed and generally whored himself yet still continued to make significant and valuable contributions to the restaurant landscape.
ROCCO AWARD — for worst career move by a talented chef.
CHEF'S CHEF AWARD — for the least heralded yet most deserving working chef.

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L’Impero’s Pork Belly Sure Bet for Cautious Diners

Since taking over from Scott Conant at L’Impero in May, Michael White has made the restaurant’s menu his own. As Gael Greene says in this week’s issue, “His new menu reflects the dazzling sunniness of Southern Italy’s markets and his own unleashed exuberance.” Exhibit A is this appetizer of grilled pork belly with mission figs and arugula. “People don’t want to risk their whole entrée on a pork belly; this way they can order it knowing that they’re safe with their sea bass or whatever,” says White. As always, mouse over the different elements after the jump to hear them described in the chef’s own words.

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A ‘Top Chef’ Surprise and Other Summer Treats

Perilla
The lull of midsummer is already over, and new growths sprout everywhere. A young chef gives his first restaurant a go, a veteran gets his own place for the first time, and an established star gets a fresh start. We have restaurant openings, new and better lemonades, and even a baked squash blossom. Summer is starting to tire, but the food stays sharp.

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Tables Available at San Domenico; A Voce Mostly Booked

It’s 4 p.m., and that means it’s time to play Two for Eight. We just asked ten restaurants the best time they can squeeze a couple in for dinner; you need only make your chosen reservation. (As always, we make the calls but don’t guarantee the results.) Today: Gourmet Italian.

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Behind the Scenes at the Conant-Cannon Divorce

As with Brad and Jennifer or England Dan and John Ford Coley, the professional marriage of Chris Cannon and Scott Conant at Alto and L’Impero seemed perfect to the world until the day it broke up. Both men tell Grub Street that they have oodles of respect and love for the other, but in speaking to both, we were able to gather a basic time line of what happened. Some time in the last year, Conant talked to Cannon about new and ambitious plans outside the restaurant, which we gather are still in play but which Cannon wanted no part of. (Conant is doing a little casual consulting for Il Tutto Giorno, a friend’s tiny, 30-seat restaurant in Sag Harbor, but by Conant’s account, that is a minor, separate affair, and he is certainly not to be the chef there.) “There are things I wanted to do, and he wasn’t necessarily on the same page with that,” Conant says. “I need to achieve my potential. The restaurant business is changing, becoming more fluid, and I need to evolve with it.”

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Scott Conant Takes Leave of Alto, L’Impero

It looks like Scott Conant, one of the city’s top Italian chefs, will be leaving Alto and L’Impero. Neither restaurant will confirm, but a high-level source with professional connections to Conant and Chris Cannon (co-owner of the restaurants) tells us that former Fiamma chef Michael White will replace Conant in both kitchens. The decision to part was supposedly pretty friendly, though based on longstanding disagreements between Conant and Cannon on how to move forward with their partnership. L’Impero will maintain its focus on southern Italian food, Alto on northern, but our source expects that White will introduce new menus by mid-August.

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Michelin's Explosive New Red Book

Michelin dropped its ratings bomb today, and it's safe to say that the New York restaurant world is, as usual, reeling. Though not as consequential as a Zagat snub, business-wise, the Michelin ratings are closer to the hearts of top chefs. (French chef Bernard Loiseau was widely believed to have killed himself over a Michelin downgrade.) The book is supposed to be in stores tomorrow (though our local Barnes & Noble says it's not even at the distributor yet). We do, however, know of some surprises. Messrs. Boulud, Bouley, and Takahama are no doubt having lousy afternoons.

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