Magazine article The New Yorker

Lincoln

Magazine article The New Yorker

Lincoln

Article excerpt

When Lincoln Center announced that it would build a restaurant on its campus--for a reported twenty million dollars--as part of a $1.2-billion redesign, and that Jonathan Benno, second-in-command to Thomas Keller at Per Se, would be the head chef, expectations were exceedingly high. The result, six months in, has a whiff of theme-park elegant. There's a proficient team ready to serve the friendliest top-of-the-line Italian food this side of Fifty-ninth Street--with prices to match. The experience may begin, when you call for reservations, with a solicitous prerecorded message that includes English translations of primi and secondi, as if hedging against surprise were part of the whole grand package. When you get there, if you approach from Hearst Plaza, you will be treated to a vision of greatness. The roof--a sloping, grass-covered paraboloid called the Illumination Lawn--overlooks a reflecting pool adorned with a Henry Moore sculpture. Once inside the vast, pristine space, all futuristic glass walls and veneer angles, you can't really see the grass or the pool, but there are views of the rear draperies of Avery Fisher Hall, the traffic on Sixty-fifth Street, or the kitchen. Pick the kitchen.

The menu, which changes daily, tends toward Italian classics gently tweaked. When asked, "Should I get Prosecco in my build-your-own negroni?," the waitress, with her no-nonsense pants suit and dry sense of humor, replied, "I can't believe we even offer that. …

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