1. primitive
    belonging to an early stage of technical development; characterized by simplicity and (often) crudeness
    In an earlier, more primitive era, chefs with an entrepreneurial urge believed that success began with a delicious product.
  2. entrepreneurial
    of or relating to an entrepreneur
    In an earlier, more primitive era, chefs with an entrepreneurial urge believed that success began with a delicious product.
  3. span
    to cover or extend over an area or time period
    If you cooked something that enough people wanted to eat, you could build an empire that might one day span the country.
  4. quaint
    strange in an interesting or pleasing way
    It all sounds rather quaint.
  5. fabricate
    put together out of artificial or natural components or parts
    Marble tables were designed and fabricated, each with a spring-loaded socket in its top.
  6. anchor
    fix firmly and stably
    The sockets can anchor pedestals that hold the pizzas several inches off the table.
  7. sheer
    complete and without restriction or qualification; sometimes used informally as intensifiers
    Some of this is because of sheer mass.
  8. conglomeration
    a sum total of many heterogenous things taken together
    The pies are overburdened conglomerations of cheese, flour and fistfuls of other stuff; in the end, the elements cancel one another out.
  9. engulf
    flow over or cover completely
    In the Fior di Zucca, zucchini blossoms and watery shredded zucchini were completely engulfed by an ankle-deep carpet of melted mozzarella.
  10. expanse
    a wide and open space or area as of surface or land or sky
    Not that the addition of undercooked Nueske’s bacon brought much relief to the bleak expanse of starch created by the layer of smashed potatoes on top of the Patatona.
  11. rigor
    excessive sternness
    Mr. White has said he engineered the dough to stand up to the rigors of delivery and reheating with no loss of quality.
  12. bland
    lacking taste or flavor or tang
    Warmed up a day or two later, a Nicoletta crust is just as stiff and bland as when it was fresh from the oven.
  13. skepticism
    doubt about the truth of something
    Pizza hunters with long memories will recall another pizzeria founded by an acclaimed chef whose pizza was met, at first, with skepticism.
  14. diversion
    a turning aside (of your course or attention or concern)
    The menu offered many other diversions, including full-flavored vegetables, robust pastas, a wine list built for Italy-hopping, and Meredith Kurtzman’s array of gelati, which won cult status and deserved it.
  15. robust
    sturdy and strong in form, constitution, or construction
    The menu offered many other diversions, including full-flavored vegetables, robust pastas, a wine list built for Italy-hopping, and Meredith Kurtzman’s array of gelati, which won cult status and deserved it.
  16. array
    an impressive display
    The menu offered many other diversions, including full-flavored vegetables, robust pastas, a wine list built for Italy-hopping, and Meredith Kurtzman’s array of gelati, which won cult status and deserved it.
  17. status
    the relative position or standing of things or especially persons in a society
    The menu offered many other diversions, including full-flavored vegetables, robust pastas, a wine list built for Italy-hopping, and Meredith Kurtzman’s array of gelati, which won cult status and deserved it.
  18. fortified
    having something added to increase the strength
    Nice surprises did pop up now and again, like the suppli fortified with ragù and the cucumbers pickled in white balsamic vinegar that were good enough to sell by the jar.
  19. prodigious
    so great in size or force or extent as to elicit awe
    But on the whole, what is striking about Nicoletta is how little evidence it gives of Mr. White’s prodigious talent for cooking Italian food that can make you dizzy with pleasure.
  20. cuisine
    the practice or manner of preparing food or the food so prepared
    That dish and others at Calliope made me wonder why bistro cuisine in New York seems to have largely stopped evolving.
  21. uncouth
    lacking refinement or cultivation or taste
    They were sautéed to the rare side of medium-rare, the uncouth edge of their bitterness softened by a Cognac-and-chicken-stock sauce with a touch of cream and butter.
  22. aromatic
    having a strong pleasant odor
    All around the city you can find Italian spins on this idea, the sauce a ragù pink with tomatoes and aromatic with rosemary.
  23. dormant
    inactive but capable of becoming active
    Some New Yorkers might believe that these by-the-numbers bistros offer a cheap ticket to the Left Bank, but those who have been to Paris recently know that the bistro tradition, never dormant, has been thoroughly rejuvenated by young chefs.
  24. rejuvenate
    return to life; get or give new life or energy
    Some New Yorkers might believe that these by-the-numbers bistros offer a cheap ticket to the Left Bank, but those who have been to Paris recently know that the bistro tradition, never dormant, has been thoroughly rejuvenated by young chefs.
  25. ordeal
    a severe or trying experience
    The room looks pretty, but all those hard surfaces can make conversation an ordeal.
  26. quarrel
    have a disagreement over something
    And while I have no quarrel with the decision to serve ricotta-chard dumplings in browned butter, such nods to Italy having become almost routine in Paris bistros, Calliope’s are dense and flat-footed.
  27. vernacular
    the everyday speech of the people (as distinguished from literary language)
    In matzo-ball vernacular, these dumplings are sinkers.
  28. douse
    cover with liquid; pour liquid onto
    And while it can’t be called her invention, the baba au rhum almost made me misty with gratitude each time a server cut the still-hot and yeasty cake neatly in half and doused it with booze from a little pitcher, as the steam lifted the vanilla scent of aged rum into the air.
  29. aggressive
    having or showing determination and energetic pursuit of your ends
    And Calliope gets many things right, even its two note-perfect chard gratins and a New York strip steak that might sound run of the mill yet is anything but, thanks to an aggressive searing and a small lake of butter and beef fat.
  30. replicate
    reproduce or make an exact copy of
    Mr. Hoffman’s move toward a casual format that can be easily replicated is, of course, one that makes sense to more and more restaurateurs.
  31. trope
    language used in a figurative or nonliteral sense
    The neighborhood has embraced it, giving the place a confidence and sparkle that take it well beyond the routine farm-to-table tropes.
  32. rusty
    covered with or consisting of rust
    Seared on a plancha until it was just done and not a moment longer, exactly the way squid has to be cooked, it was served with smashed fingerlings and with butter dyed rusty orange by pimentón.
  33. judicious
    marked by the exercise of good judgment or common sense in practical matters
    Mr. Hoffman has installed a smoker on the second floor of Back Forty West, near where the small bar used to be, and the restaurant makes excellent, judicious use of it.
  34. steadfast
    marked by firm determination or resolution; not shakable
    More than any one dish he created, an early and steadfast loyalty to Greenmarket produce defined Mr. Hoffman as a chef.
  35. sleuth
    watch, observe, or inquire secretly
    Unmasking the main courses in this jumble takes bit of sleuthing, but it’s obvious that the “Spoon” category is for desserts.
  36. ungainly
    difficult to handle or manage especially because of shape
    It’s hard to imagine this ungainly dish on the menu at Back Forty West, and not just because you need your hands and a fork to eat it.
  37. contradiction
    opposition between two conflicting forces or ideas
    It’s no contradiction to share that sadness while celebrating the rise of places like Back Forty West, which make fine local products into everyday food.