Some new restaurants, such as Bâtard, arrive with expectations; others, like Racines NY, are less encumbered. Tutto Il Giorno would be in the former camp, at least for me. Its two siblings in the Hamptons have that light, airy, traditional East End feel, and one might naturally assume that the new outpost on Franklin Street would be along those lines.
One would be wrong. The old Theater Bar/Grace space has been opened up—appealingly, you can see right through to a garden wall in the rear air shaft—but the vibe is cool and contemporary, all somber earth tones, white orchids, and boutique hotel–style music. It’s a close relative of Donna Karan’s Urban Zen stores. (Tutto Il Giorno’s owners are Gabby Karan De Felice and her husband Gianpaolo De Felice.) The room is elegantly organized with booths, banquettes, and a communal table, so you never feel like you’re dining in a room full of furniture, as is so often the case in large restaurants. The materials are far from cheap, the lighting is attractive, and the sound level was perfect—all the more notable because it was Saturday night and the restaurant was filled with young people (in Tribeca, that means under 40). A note on the menu explains that the art is by Gabby’s late father, Stephan Weiss; the wall of black-and-white paintings in the lounge area provides a welcome dash of contrast.
The service could use some attention. While Adam and I waited for our friends at the bar, Bartender #1 only deigned to help us once I had whispered too loudly that I didn’t like being ignored, and then she got royally snitty with Bartender #2, who, for his part, made a lame Negroni. (He didn’t even stir the liquor once he’d poured it into the glass, and the ice was not up to 2014 standards.) Bartender #1 couldn’t decide whether she’d be able to put the drinks on our dinner tab; eventually, she walked away, so we did, too. Our server, meanwhile, was upbeat and very friendly. “She keeps rubbing up against me,” said Adam, and we all laughed, until she did it to me, too. That was actually sort of amusing. Asking if we’d like “a bottle of still or sparkling water,” leaving it to us to raise the possibility of tap water, is a move better suited to the Hamptons.
I crave Italian food that’s both classic and contemporary, but not too far in either direction. The menu leaves room for hope, with simple descriptions such as “pappardelle, whipped controne beans, mussels” and “rigatoni, sweet and hot homemade sausage, peas, touch of cream.” Where other restaurants might take those as departure points, sneaking in herbs or other complexity, at Tutto Il Giorno they’re more like complete lists of ingredients. If you like your Italian food very straightforward, you’ll be happier than those of us who prefer a bit of zest.
Desserts were unmemorable, except for my chocolate gelato. Served in a martini glass and garnished with spun sugar, it was pure Eighties. Perhaps certain foods, as with certain fashions, will come back into style.
Tutto Il Giorno is at 114 Franklin (between W. Broadway and Church), 212-274-8100; tuttoilgiorno.com. Lunch is currently only served on weekends.
Recent New Kid on the Block/First Impressions articles:
• Union Bar + Kitchen
• Il Principe
• Arcade Bakery
• Sweet Green
• Hotel Hugo
• El Vez
• Racines NY
• Juice Press
• By Suzette
• The Live Well Company