It’s no shock that Nets buyer Mikhail Prokhorov celebrated the other day at Nello. The Madison Avenue joint’s overpriced food and underfed blondes are perfect for a bimbo-craving, globetrotting gazillionaire from the world’s most gastronomically challenged country.
Nello’s theoretically Italian, seasoning-shy Oligarch Cuisine attracts the kind of vagabonding clowns too eager to flaunt their ill-gotten gains — hedge-fund scoundrels, tainted politicians, dope-snorting movie stars. Plus, as Mr. Nello Balan once informed us in an ad he placed in this newspaper, “her royal majesty, the late Princess Diana,” Prince Andrew and Prince Albert of Monaco.
They can’t all be going there for the food, even if the joint’s organic guinea hen has more meat on it than some of the broads who hog the front tables.
But the place serves a purpose. Without Nello — and a handful of like-minded clip joints like Cipriani and Mr. Chow — there’d be no way for guys like Prokhorov to publicly throw dough around like it was disco dust.
In a town full of great Italian food at reasonable prices, there’s Nello’s $15 chicken soup, $38 prosciutto and melon, and $37 spaghetti carbonara.
When you can blow $5,000 on a bottle of Petrus — not necessarily higher than at some other Manhattan restaurants — you don’t have to sweat over little items on Prokhorov’s bill like $210 for three veal chops, $74 for two plates of tuna tartare and $825 for three plates of truffle tagliolini. (The bill doesn’t say if they were black truffles or white.)
The amazing thing is that Balan’s pasta parlor stays on his feet. Almost any other owner would have collapsed by now, after an endless series of fiscal woes.
In fact, Nello stands taller than ever on Madison Avenue — his major nearby competitor, beloved La Goulue, recently closed to make way for a new building, and Frederick’s folded after falling into bankruptcy.
But Prokhorov should be warned: You’re not in Vladivostok anymore. Now that you’re eating with the 8 million of us, we’ll be watching your every culinary step.
How about trying a really great Italian restaurant, if your system can handle it — like Marea, Il Mulino, Cellini, Babbo, Scarpetta and Esca, just for starters?
And since you’ll (presumably) be spending lots of time in Brooklyn, what about Di Fara, Bamonte’s, Queen and newly reopened Armando’s?
Some of them are pricey, but none will set you back $20 for common fried calamari. They might not be great places to show off, but who knows? If you’re serious about building the Nets that elusive new arena, you might need to save every cent you can.