Everyone I spoke to for this story pointed out that some level of noisiness in restaurants is intentional — and you can thank (recently disgraced) celebrity chef Mario Batali for that.
In a great New York magazine article about loud restaurants, Adam Platt points out that the “Great Noise Boom” in eateries started to flourish in the late ’90s, around the time Batali began pumping the music he and his kitchen staff enjoyed working to into the dining room at Babbo in New York. “Over the next several years,” Platt writes, “as David Chang and his legions of imitators followed Batali’s lead, the front-of-the-house culture was slowly buried in a wall of sound.”
Batali has explained his penchant for loud restaurants: He feels the sound conveys a sense of vibrancy and energy, feelings diners associate with eating out in New York. So the raucousness is by design.
Today, restaurants still use loud music to achieve that same dynamism. As Sietsema told me, “When I go around town to hot restaurants, they are all pretty noisy, for a lot of reasons, I think. But partly I blame it on restaurants, because you’re looking to create buzz or energy in dining rooms. No one wants to walk into a mausoleum.”
As someone who has sensitive ears, the best dining experience I have had in my life was at a small restaurant with absolutely no music.
It was heaven.