Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5

Nestled in a congested stretch of bars and restaurants, Tre, a newish shoebox trattoria on the Lower East Side, has no problem attracting foot traffic. The generically appealing, long, narrow dining room features protruding wine racks, dangling filament bulbs and a whitewashed brick wall. The wine list is well priced, the service genial and prompt. There’s only one problem: The food is absurd. Lately, Italian spots struggling to stand out in a crowded marketplace have been taking a gamble on their chef’s own auteur cuisine (think Giano and Bocca). It’s a disturbing trend, particularly when the chef’s ideas are so outrageous (and not in a good way). Giuliano Matarese, who also helms Nero in the Meatpacking District, takes a kitchen sink approach, piling as many disparate ingredients as possible onto a single incongruous plate. A beet carpaccio starter with fried goat-cheese balls looks like a Jackson Pollock with its conflicting streaks of basil puree and mango coulis (and sprinkled pistachios, grapes and microgreens). Matarese’s most outlandish concoctions seem to dare you to order them. Chipotle cavatelli with mussels and broccoli rabe foam, even stranger than it sounds, looks like it must’ve been created for a special Halloween dinner (“pasta worms with broccoli rabe slime” is a more apt description). Thankfully, desserts, like a straight-up ricotta cheesecake, don’t seem to be subject to the chef’s mad-scientist impulses. If only the rest of the menu had also been spared.

173 Ludlow St between E Houston and Stanton Sts (212-353-3353). Subway: F, V to Lower East Side–Second Ave. Mon–Thu, Sun noon–11pm; Fri, Sat noon–midnight. Average main course: $18.