2005_12_food_mario.JPGIt's all about the latest addition to the Batali/Bastianich empire in this morning's food news. The big one (and we mean really big -- 24,000 square feet between the dining area and the kitchen): Del Posto. Frank Bruni at the Times gives us fair warning of what to expect:

$240 rack of veal, $220 shoulder of pork and a $200 whole king salmon for four to eight people, to be carved within view of the table, in a flourish of high ceremony from the Old World.

The proposed menu lists nearly 20 antipasti. It has more than a dozen pasta dishes, one with a jalapeño pesto, another with a tripe ragù, another with partridge.

And there will be more than 15 other entrees, including duck wrapped in porchetta; guinea hen with pumpkin; squab with wild arugula.

and as far as atmosphere goes, "there will be reservations taken even for perches in a lounge area. There will be live piano music and, believe it or not, valet parking . . . It will be filled with marble, brass and bronze, all meant to evoke a centuries-old palazzo."

Steve Cuozzo at the Post is worried, however, about all the grandeur: He thinks Mario and company might have to face "the Italian Jinx of 2005," which has plagued three new large-scale Italian restaurants: "The slow starters were among 2005's most hyped debuts. Yet, both Alto and Maremma have dumped their original esoteric menus, and Piano Due is still waiting for the crowds."

Well, we certainly wish Mario, Joe, and Lydia the best of luck in drawing in the crowds and avoiding the curse.

Eater's take on the Del Posto hype.

Del Posto, 85 Tenth Avenue, near 16th Street, opening soon.