Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Co., Revisited

As December draws to a close, a number of newly published articles look back on 2009's noteworthy restaurants. Jim Lahey's pizzeria, Co., appears in the bulk of these articles. In his article, Where To Eat in 2010, New York Magazine's Adam Platt divides his recommendations into categories. In the category Bull-Market Italian, Adam writes, "[u]ntil Keith McNally’s eagerly awaited Pulino’s Bar and Pizzeria opens down on the Bowery, Jim Lahey’s spare, pizza-geek mecca, Co., is my favorite place to go to experience the great New York gourmet pizza revolution in all its glory." In his article The Fabulous Freshman of '09, Sam Sifton of The New York Times writes of Co., "Jim Lahey, of Sullivan Street Bakery, got into the restaurant game this year with Co. (pronounced 'company'), a pizzeria. It's casual, fairly elegant in its way. The pizza's excellent."

In response to what is, in my view, an unwarranted inclusion of Co. in these articles, I am re-posting my March 23, 2009 post, "A Few Wise Words From Public Enemy":

Excited by the buzz generated from an endless number of positive reviews and by my affection for all things bread, I set out for lunch with a friend at Jim Lahey's new pizza restaurant, Co. After a fumbling waiter finally came over to acknowledge us, my friend chose the Boscaiola ($17) and I settled on the traditional Margherita ($13). The menu warns that Co.'s pies are not always round (nouveau or too bothersome?), but what it and the waitstaff neglect to tell you is that there is an unnecessary lag time between the arrival of each pie. Without explanation, the Margherita arrived at our cramped table a full 10 minutes after the Boscaiola. When we finally sampled both pies we concluded neither were overly impressive. Jim Lahey is a celebrated bread baker, so we expected the dough -at the very least- to be above par. Unfortunately the dough is nothing more than ordinary. It is commonplace for pizza in New York City to have thin, crispy crust. Co.'s pizza dough is thin, as expected, but the edges of our pies were overly charred and the underbellies lacked the crispness needed to balance the weight of the toppings. We paid our bill (rather exorbitant for 2 individual sub-par pizzas and shameful service) and resigned to the notion that Co.'s pizzas are edible (how many times have you met a pizza that isn't?), but definitely not buzz-worthy.

A tight circle prominently reigns as the culinary elite in New York City, so it shouldn't come as a surprise when mediocre restaurants with a public figure attached (enter investors Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Phil Suarez) continuously receive the highest accolades. While it is not surprising, it is disheartening. Overhyping a less than stellar restaurant does a major disservice to hungry, paying customers. So, as a warning to all those who are planning to eat at Co. sometime in the near future, I refer you to the poetry of Public Enemy- "Don't Believe The Hype."

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