Ago (closed)

by Susan on April 7, 2008

[Food:2.5/5]

Robert DeNiro put another stamp on TriBeCa last week with the opening of Ago, the newest outpost of his Tuscan-inspired restaurant helmed by Chef Agostino Sciandri. Ago is strategically located in DeNiro’s Greenwich Hotel, scheduled to open shortly.

It was only the second night Ago had been open, but the bar was crowded with lively patrons and the front dining room was filled. Tiled floors, white tablecloths, mis-matched wooden chairs, and softly lit sconces set in mosaics, create an attractive and comfortable setting. Instead of creating a faux oasis, gigantic windows look out onto the street flaunting your New York City location. How very DeNiro.

Three hostesses greeted us at the door though not one of them offered to take our jackets, leaving me to wonder why this vast space was designed without a coat check. Staff buzzed around us for the entire night as if we were honeycomb. There seemed to be an inordinate amount of service people, each with a separate task. The delivery of the bread basket, the refilling of water glasses, the presentation of dishes, and the clearing of plates were all performed by different people. Genuine smiles graced their faces as “buona seras” escaped from their lips. You continually got the impression that every staff person cared whether or not you enjoyed your dining experience.

The only constant face, our server, was so attentive he bordered on suffocating. It was his authentic Italian accent (most of the staff seemed to hail from the boot-shaped country) and adorable demeanor that made his omniscient presence enjoyable. The only big service snafu was when our entrees arrived before we had finished our starters. Our server, however, was incredibly apologetic and I suspect the error was an early wrinkle that has already been ironed out.

Pasta, fish, and meat dishes with Tuscan roots and New York prices abound. A wood-burning oven turns out three different pizzas that priced at $14-$16, are the best (if not only) deals on the menu. Presentation was baffling. Dishes were plated without sophisticated refinement or rustic candor, leaving them to look like sloppy compositions created without any aesthetic care.

Three skewers of Seppiolini (cuttlefish) baked with an herbed breadcrumb coating lay atop risina beans, oven dried tomatoes, and squid ink. The delicate seafood was tender and the flavors subtle, but the tremendous quantity of beans threw off the balance of the dish as well as its appearance.

Similarly plated, the dainty Quaglia (quail) was splayed on a too-giant pile of stewed lentils. The juicy quail and gritty lentils, however, made a nice pairing.

For an entrée, green Cappelletti (“little hats”) pasta, were filled with ground veal. Dressed simply with butter, sage, and Parmigiano cheese, the pasta cones were savory and moist, but at $24 and closer to a starter size, not worth the cost.

Risotto Di Pesce (seafood risotto), with a reddish hue and tomato base, was more reminiscent of paella or bouillabaisse. We craved creaminess and decadence, though generous amounts of shellfish, especially the meaty mussels, provided some consolation.

Two tired looking filets of tomato and basil infused Branzino (Mediterranean sea bass) were cooked well, but tasted bland. Even the accompanying roasted potatoes needed multiple shakes of salt. With every bite I regretted letting the servers remove the uneaten spoonfuls of beans and lentils from our starter dishes – who knew they would have come in handy.

The eleven-option dessert menu was one of the longer ones I’ve seen recently. Though the Millefoglie Diplomatico was the most sophisticated and elegant looking dish to grace our table the entire evening, it was our least favorite. The delicate layers of puff pastry and vanilla custard were overpowered by the Alkermes liquor.

With a little more focus on plating and a few seasoning tweaks, Ago should be another success for TriBeCa, and DeNiro.

Ago
www.agorestaurant.com
377 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
212.925.3797

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