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First off, the food was amazing. For the meal alone, I'd give four shovels,
but the service left a little to be desired. I was looking forward to my
meal all week and it just so happened that that week's "Time Out NY"
featured the tartufo as a critic's pick, so I was expecting greatness. I
know this is a popular place and Mario Batali is a TV chef and all, but this
isn't Babbo. I thought Lupa was supposed to be easier to deal with, both
price-wise and pretention-wise.

We'd made reservations for 9:45 on a Friday, which was sort of late, but
it was short notice and I rarely end up eating before 10:00 on weekends
anyway. The place was jam-packed when we got there, the bar area was
overflowing into the front seats (which I thought were for walk-ins) and we
were given no indication as to when we'd be seated. It ended up being over
an hour wait and we were seated in the front room at the same time as people
who'd walked in sans reservations only minutes before. I was always under
the impression that people with reservations were supposed to get to sit in
the "nicer" back dining room while the crowded wooden tables in front were
for people who showed up and wanted to wait. It made me wonder what the
point of a reservation was.

I can't say that the long wait put me in a very good mood and by 11:00
my stomach was starting to eat its own lining. However, we ended up doing
the tasting menu, which consisted of an antipasti with various meats and
salami and citrus-cured sardines with a cracked wheat salad, a pasta, which
I think was called bucatini all'amatriciana, a seafood stew with squid,
mussels, chickpeas and other assorted goodies (the server kept ladling and
ladling more soup into my bowl to the point where it was comedic and then
James just got the remains, which is still peeving him. I don't know if the
guy sized us up and was like, "that girl likes to eat" or what), a main
course of which James had the saltimbocca, which is a veal dish and I
ordered the oxtail since I'd heard amazing things about it, but they ended
up bringing us both veal and tried to make it seem like they couldn't do the
oxtail and normally I'm a pushover who never pipes up, but after that insane
wait, there was no way I was going to let them get out of giving me what I'd
ordered. The finishing touch was the tartufo, a big ball of hazelnut ice
cream with biscotti chunks and a rich chocolate covering and a cherry in the
middle. For the quality and amount of food, the $42 tasting menu was well
worth the price.

The food completely lived up to all the hype I'd heard. Almost
everything had a diverse range of flavors combined into one. Like the Four
S's of S.E. Asian food that always keep me happy: sour, salty, sweet and
spicy. Ingredients like sweet onions, raisins, fennel, cracked pepper and
lemon fusing into a memorable mouthful. And this is coming from the girl
who's never been impressed with Italian food. I'd like to go back, but I
don't know if that'll be any time soon.

Lupa * 170 Thompson St., New York, NY

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