But not together (no need to start any wild rumors here). We heard yesterday that Mr. Bruni's review would be hitting today's Dining section. But what would he think? Would he lean towards Steve Cuozzo's take? Adam Platt's? Both of them seemed to think that although some of the food was predictably good, if not overpriced, the decor and sheer vastness of the place combined with some misses on the menu threw the whole experience out of whack. And we'd have to agree for the most part.

Mario's cherished lardo, which is nothing more than pork fat, was served in a china dish on a silver tray next to the butter, a fabulous example of the dichotomy of the evening -- the hearty, rustic Italian cuisine served on delicate china with an ultra-formal flair. We thought our pastas were wonderful, particularly the papardelle with wild boar ragu and the chestut puree ravioli over roasted pigeon and myrtle. They were, however, hovering around the $25 price point, which we felt was primarily funding the enormous, hotel-lobby-like space.

2006_02_food_dp3rums.jpgThe service truly was impeccable -- in classic four-star style, the servers came to clear each course just a moment after the last of us laid our silver parallel on our plate. Some of the courses came with a grand explanation, most notably the "three rums and three chocolates" in which we indulged for dessert -- we got a full-fledged chocolate lecture, worthy of the finest cheese or wine. For us, the bottom line was that it was a lavish eating experience, and if you feel like paying for your setting and service and generally enjoy Mario's creations, you should go. And Frank seems to agree.

He has given Del Posto three stars -- not the four that Mario and crew were going for, but certainly respectable all-around. He pooh-poohs some of the negativity that has swirled about so far: "the naysaying makes me wonder whether many New Yorkers are as open to new experiences as they like to think. Del Posto dares to speak in an unfamiliar idiom, only to be told it has a phony accent."

He urges diners to place their focus where it counts, on the food, which he describes as "mostly terrific... distinguished by first-rate ingredients." He also notes that the "central vision and ambition of Del Posto are valid ones. Why shouldn't an Italian meal be bracketed by a breadbasket as bountiful as Del Posto's and a plethora of complimentary cookies? Can there be much complaint with the extensive Italian wine list, which has a laudable number of bottles of white for under $50 and red for under $80?"

Hear, hear. We're all for free cookies (and gelees, and meringues) and modestly-priced wine (we were never pressured to order towards the high end of the list). They merely added to our experience, as did a bag of house-made breadcrumbs we were given on our way out, "to help us find our way back."