On Monday a noble idea will die as Little Italy restaurant Focolare refocuses its menu to cater to what people want to eat in Little Italy. Gone will be the duck with chocolate, the beet-stuffed ravioli in Champagne sauce, the octopus. I’m told that Chef Frank Lania, who wanted to bring creative Italian food to a neighborhood that didn’t have any, is adding pizza to the menu, and more pasta, (but apparently not chicken Parmigiana).
I guess that means the re-Italianization of New York’s Little Italy will have to wait.
Whether that’s a bad thing or not is really in the eye of the beholder, though. Lots of people like Italian-American cuisine, and it can be perfectly tasty, although not particularly related to modern Italian food.
And this shift at Focolare is a reminder that you can’t cook food that’s too far over the heads of your guests. If they want spaghetti and meatballs, tagliatele alla Bolognese isn’t going to cut it.
I think that’s why good Mexican food and good barbecue are so hard (but not impossible) to find in New York. Most New Yorkers are unaccustomed to those foods and so they can’t tell the difference. Ditto for many Asian cuisines here.