Brooklyn Winery's team crafts small-batch, artisanal wines in Williamsburg?and if winemaking in an urban environment sounds odd to customers, they can always find out how it works during Tuesday winery tours. The tour guides walk groups through their entire process, from the moment the grapes arrive at the facility to when the cork goes in the final wine bottle, trapping the wine genie inside for good. Of course, the process varies from wine to wine. The team ages some vintages in stainless-steel containers, while the barrel-fermented riesling is aged, predictably, in oak barrels, an old-school technique that originated in prerefrigeration Germany. The result? A quirky riesling with hints of soapstone, mushroom, and honey.
The team doesn't just reclaim old German traditions, though. For their unpretentious 1,200-square-foot wine bar, they also reclaimed most of the building materials. In the cozy, unpretentious bar, visitors sip vintages pulled from wine racks that were once World War II ammo boxes; the walls, meanwhile, were barn wood in a past life, and the bar itself is made from old church pews, completing the aura of modernity rooted in history.
Brasserie 214 traces its roots far across the space-time continuum. The original iteration of the restaurant launched way back in 1938, but recent renovations and menu evolutions have brought French, Northern Italian, Belgian, German, and Scandinavian culinary traditions to the fore. Entrees such as salmon niçoise and duck à l'orange, as well as specialty schnitzels, exemplify the kind of elegant dinner, lunch, and brunch fare prepared by the skilled chefs. Imported beers and stateside craft brews pour from the taps to complement that selection. Of course, it wouldn't be a Long Island brasserie or a valid retirement destination without a robust cocktail selection. To that end, bartenders mix together specialty martinis, sangria, and sidecars with Bacardi, Disaronno, and fresh lemon juice served in a sugar-rimmed martini glass.
Chef Ricardo Cardona might be from El Salvador, but that doesn’t mean his cooking sticks to tradition. At Mamajuana Café, he draws on more than 25 years of cooking to build his modern cuisine on a foundation of his homeland’s centuries-old cooking traditions. And it seems like his efforts have paid off: his Nuevo Latino dishes, which also prominently feature Dominican flavors, earned the eatery a Critics’ Pick designation from New York magazine. All that attention might be on account of the chef’s inventive flavor combinations, such as sweet plantains stuffed with salted cod, chicken-tempura sushi rolls, and Cornish game hen topped with diced chorizo and lobster. In the dining space, tufted leather banquettes run along the wall just beneath studio lighting and backlit artwork. Bright red and earth-tone curtains give the room a clublike vibe, which set the tone for when diners take to the dance floor between courses.
Massimo Scoditti left the comforts of his home in Mesagne, Italy, for New York City with the intention of increasing the prominence of Italian food in the Big Apple. Accomplishing his mission is his restaurant, Brio, which opened in 1990 and has since become something of a staple to Upper East Siders. In fact, it had so many fans that Scoditti expanded Brio in 2011 to include a second location in the Flatiron District. Brio Flatiron upholds the original location’s allegiance to high-quality italian ingredients. Its menu features some of New York magazine’s favorite dishes from the original Brio, including salmon tartare served in a balsamic reduction and linguine smeraldino—a bed of black-ink pasta cradling shrimp and bell peppers. Yet the restaurant also forges a new path with menu items of its own. The cavatelli romanesco, for example, brings the heat with calabrese-chili flakes and Esposito’s sausage crumbled over handmade pasta and cauliflower. Alternatively, the battuta d’agnello features thin slices of lamb served with confetti tomatoes. The second Brio also differentiates itself from the flagship location with a sleeker interior and refusal to answer to Junior.
Part restaurant, part art gallery, part performance venue. Pepela aims to capture the spirit of a contemporary European spot, with an emphasis on Georgian and Mediterranean influences. The two-story Park Avenue townhouse indulges visitors with a menu of hearty comfort foods inspired by Old World recipes. These dishes include thin slices of eggplant rolled in a walnut paste and orders of khinkali?traditional, meat-filled Georgian dumplings. To accompany the cuisine, bartenders pour wines from a list that includes several French and Italian options, but mainly highlights Georgian producers. The bartenders even make cocktails using chacha: an infused Georgian brandy.
In addition to the dining area?s white brick walls, large, banquet-worthy tables, and a stage area for the occasional live band, Pepela also includes sections with a bit more of an upscale touch. The lounge section?s marble-topped bar, glittering chandeliers, and ornately regal armchairs and loveseat demonstrate this air of refinement. Pepela also features an onsite art gallery, which routinely swaps out the collection to better feature new pieces and different colored exit signs.
The warmth of rustic Old World cooking meets the elegance of modern metropolitan living at Circolo45. Executive Chef Daniele Sicuranza leads the kitchen as he and his team create upscale renditions of iconic Italian comfort foods. Beginning with handmade pastas and locally sourced produce, the chefs forge home-style florentine meatballs as well as dishes that showcase a more refined approach, such as spaghetti with decadent black summer truffles and a whole, salt-crusted branzino served with sautéed vegetables. Surrounded by a setting that features brown leather banquettes, orange and gray walls, and tables custom-built from distressed wood according to The Village Voice, diners can enjoy their meals with a bottle or glass from the restaurant's six-page wine list, which predominantly features Italian producers, yet still includes selections from California, New York, Oregon, and the wine-spewing geysers of Washington State.