Jo’s, the new casual American bistro that took over the former Tasting Room space in Nolita, makes an awfully good first impression. An inviting front bar gives way to a warm, cozy dining room staffed by adorable young women in white aprons and blue-and-white striped shirts—contemporary riffs on old-fashioned diner attire. The menu reads like a comfort-food dream, with hearty protein-rich entres and upmarket spins on pierogi, mac and cheese, and moules frites. But like a model who kills the conversation the moment he opens his mouth, the magic here dies when the food hits your lips. Young chef Ian Topper-Kapitan, who last cooked in New Jersey, makes dishes that are photo-shoot ready but, nine times out of ten, fail to live up to their visual promise. Only his cheese-sauced pasta—garganelli with bacon and mushrooms, available as a starter or entre—was tasty enough for us to even consider scarfing down every last bite. Other dishes were so poorly executed they went largely uneaten. Shrimp pierogi were inedible, gluey bundles filled with mealy chopped crustacean. A ten-hour-braised pork shank was surprisingly bland and remarkably dry. Grilled trout fillets, perplexingly cut up into four stacked squares, had a bitter, leathery char and sat in a sallow bowl of apple-horseradish broth. One night, the suitably homey desserts included a run-of-the-mill warm chocolate cake with raspberry coulis and a more solidly executed warm berry tart with a fine crumbly streusel crust. Maybe the chef ought to stick to the few things he does well. Instead of a bistro, why not make it a mac-and-cheese bar offering fruit tarts for dessert?