NEW YORK – Maybe it was something Chelsea ate.
As a photographer and I lunched on a seafood salad drenched in oil and garlic; a smoky, salty and mostly forgettable osso buco (braised veal shank in tomato sauce); and a flavorful but ho-hum angel hair pasta primavera, I couldn’t help but wonder whether former President Clinton's daughter simply decided she doesn’t like the food at Osso Buco — and if that was why she suddenly wanted the photo of her with the restaurant’s owner pulled from its prominent spot in the window.
Chelsea, now 27, apparently dined at the Greenwich Village restaurant about five years ago with a group of 30 or so friends, according to Osso Buco restaurateur Nino Selimaj. Being a fan of her dad, Selimaj asked Chelsea if he could have his picture taken with her. She complied.
But that photo is now at the center of a dispute brought on behalf of Bill Clinton by his lawyer, Douglas J. Band, who on Sept. 18 fired off a rather threatening letter to Selimaj demanding that he take down the snapshot immediately — or face the Clintons’ ire, presumably in the form of legal action.
Selimaj says Chelsea returned to Osso Buco “a few times” since that night — but not for some years. Could it have been the parmigiana?
Our photographer, Jimmy, thought the seafood salad — a mix of shrimp, octopus, calamari and various other shellfish on a bed of radicchio – was “amazing.” I was less impressed; I thought the seafood was rubbery, and there was too much oil and garlic. But then again, maybe I just don’t fully appreciate down-home Italian-style cooking.
The pasta primavera had a rich but not overpowering garlic flavor and wasn’t drowning in oil like the salad. It was cooked al dente with sautéed broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes and carrots. Mountain-moving? No. Tasty? Yes. But not for everyone.
“I don’t like fried vegetables,” said Jimmy, who tried only one mushroom and didn’t touch the pasta.
Both of us were underwhelmed by the Osso Buco, despite the waiter’s hearty endorsement. The meat was too fatty and chewy, and the thick, lumpy tomato gravy was hearty but a tad salty.
Osso Buco, the restaurant, has been in the same spot, nestled near New York University, for decades — and it does have its fans. And for a while, at least, Chelsea was one of them.
But if the jovial Selimaj and his equally amiable and helpful staff want the former White House resident to come back, they may not only have to agree to remove her picture. They may have to ask Chelsea if she likes the food.