Felice 83’s executive chef, Simone Parisotto, knew he wanted to be a chef at the age of 12, when he started recreating his grandmother’s famous lasagna for his working parents and younger sister in their home outside Milan. Today, after years of training and a stint with Emporio Armani’s cafés, Parisotto brings his culinary skills to meet the wines of another Italian native: restaurateur Jacopo Giustiniani, who has dotted the city with wines from Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani, his own Tuscan family estate. These range from the traditional to the experimental-minded, including a selection of organic and biodynamic bottles. With 18 available by the glass and 100 in bottles, there’s something to suit each of Parisotto’s simple yet nuanced plates of housemade pastas, farm-raised meats, and seasonal vegetables. Crostini are a popular start to meals at Felice 83, made from toasted tuscan bread baked fresh in-house each day and topped with cheeses, figs, and olive oil. Artisanal pastas flower with sweet italian sausage, porcini mushrooms, braised endives, and plentiful fresh herbs. Following is a short-and-sweet list of secondi, including a slab of dry-aged new york strip for two, grilled fish, and even an Italian gourmet take on the hamburger, placing crescenza or mozzarella cheese atop a patty of short ribs and brisket. A brass Art Deco–style rack of sparkling wine glasses hangs above the bar, which dispatches sweet and tart specialty cocktails to the leather-banquette-lined dining room. Knotted-wood walls are hung with old Italian photographs, whose vintage glow is enhanced by chandeliers custom-made with empty bottles of Giustiniani’s wine and coils of rope. Guests can also settle onto the 34-seat seasonal patio to watch the passersby and see if they can lasso them with spaghetti.
Pierre Loti’s two-story Midtown wine bar and eatery beckons patrons to enter for conversation, cocktails, and light meals. A selection of more than 30 by-the-glass wines rotates seasonally, with more than 200 bottled varieties available year-round from countries such as Italy, Australia, and Argentina. Turkish small plates bolster the wine list, with a menu of more than a dozen hot and cold offerings. An eclectic list of cheeses and charcuterie includes cave-aged gruyère from Switzerland and Spanish chorizo blended with paprika and other spices. Cooks prepare elegant small plates of truffle deviled eggs and yellowfin-tuna tartare. Sautéed mushrooms accompany lamb chops, and turkish beef dumplings glisten with a light garlic-yogurt sauce. The quaint, two-level location features an upstairs dining room with red walls and a large window overlooking the street. During the summertime, the windows open to expose potted flowers and provide pole-vaulters with a convenient entrance. Edit for Chelsea Location: Pierre Loti’s quaint Chelsea wine bar and eatery beckons patrons to enter for conversation, cocktails, and light or prix-fixe meals. A selection of more than 50 by-the-glass wines rotates seasonally, with more than 200 bottled varieties available year-round from countries such as Italy, Australia, and Argentina. Turkish small plates bolster the wine list, with a menu of more than a dozen hot and cold offerings. An eclectic list of cheeses and charcuterie includes cave-aged gruyère from Switzerland and Spanish chorizo blended with paprika and other spices. Cooks prepare elegant entrees such as grilled veal sausage served with white bean salad, and stuffed cabbage with rice, vermicelli, carrots, and peas. Sautéed spinach accompanies lamb chops, and turkish beef dumplings glisten with a light garlic-yogurt sauce.
When Pepi Di Giacomo and Luca Di Pietro—natives of Abruzzo, Italy—immigrated to Manhattan and couldn't find a decent cup of espresso, the duo decided to begin brewing their own. Di Giacomo and Di Pietro drew upon their professional backgrounds in the hospitality, coffee, and wine industries and founded Tarallucia e Vino as a way to spread their love of Old World cuisine. The small empire of specialty eateries now includes three locations across New York, each with a different focus. Tarallucia e Vino's restaurant location embraces the culinary vision of Chef Riccardo Bilotta, who forges Italian-inspired cuisine using the contemporary techniques he honed working in the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain and Italy. Old World restraint and New World experimentation appear throughout the menu in equal measure. Although a simple dish of buttered tagliatelle pasta arrives with nothing more than decadent black truffle, the beefy filetto di manzo balances its faintly sweet caramelized apples against a white onion mousse and smoky speck. Even when experimenting, though, Chef Bilotta still draws inspiration from classic ingredients such as imported Italian cheeses and prosciutto aged for up to 21 months. In contrast, the Zagat-rated restaurant's dining room is thoroughly modern. A handful of marble-topped tables surrounds the central, horseshoe-shaped bar area. Wine bottles fill the cabinets and the back wall, and every open bottle is treated with a Wine Keeper system that creates a layer of nitrogen between the wine and the surrounding oxygen, helping preserve the wine’s joie de vivre for longer periods of time.
Porsena is a case-study in well-executed simplicity. That's thanks to owner and head chef Sara Jenkins, whose culinary pedigree shines through her pasta-centric menu. On each plate, diners find the attention to detail that one can expect from the daughter of a food critic who spent her childhood frequenting the trattorias of Tuscany and Rome. Offerings range from light?try the pasta al pomodoro, a minimalist blend of spaghetti, tomato sauce, basil, and parmigiano?to hearty, like the garlic pork sausage-laden rigatoni al norcino.
Porsena In the Press * In 2014, the Michelin Guide chose Porsena as one of its picks for the NYC Bib Gourmand dining guide. * New York Magazine featured the restaurant as a critics' pick in, describing Jenkins' cooking "rustic but refined." * Mario Batali called Jenkins "one of the few chefs in America who understands Italy and how Italians eat."
Although chef Jenkins serves a diverse range of pasta dishes, each one has something in common: a base of artisanal noodles, typically cut using traditional bronze dies. "The pasta is rougher. . . it grabs the sauce better, as opposed to the pasta sitting in a pool of sauce,? Jenkins explained in an interview. Though artisan pastas are her main focus, she also whips up entrees such as the hangar steak and pork chops, whose tender juiciness New Yorkers have savored elsewhere; she's the culinary force behind the Manhattan restaurant Porchetta, which slings out celebrated roast-pork sandwiches.
AYZA Wine & Chocolate Bar uses cocoa like a magnet. Its 80% dark-chocolate ganache by Jacques Torres draws in connoisseurs while a cluster hazelnut by Xocolatti entices sweet teeth of all stripes. There's warm chocolate molten cake topped with ice cream to mix temperatures, Belgian chocolate-covered strawberries to mix sweets, and a raspberry-chocolate martini with Chambord and Kahlua to mix one indulgence with another.
Indulgence is the overarching theme at AYZA. More than 90 types of wine from Italy, Argentina, and Chile pair with chocolatey treats?wine coming by the glass or bottle; chocolate coming by the piece or as part of a cascading fondue fountain. For more tenacious hungers, imported cheeses pair with Mediterranean-style entrees of pan-roasted wild sea bass. To make these offerings even more romantic, the bar hosts a Sunday couples' night, when the staff sprinkles tables with rose petals instead of firmly platonic palm fronds.
In the perpetual search for Manhattan’s best date spot, Riposo 46 is certainly a contender. The cozy Hell’s Kitchen spot features an intimate and well-lit bar area with an approachable menu of mostly Italian wines, which takes away the stress of ordering the right bottle in front of a date. The menu is similarly low-key, yet still features an array of quality wine-bar eats such as steamed mussels, bruschetta with grilled skirt steak, and artisanal cheeses, including organic gorgonzola dolce. Perhaps the stars of the menu are the grilled flatbreads, featuring topping combinations such as wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, goat cheese, and parmigiano reggiano. Couples settle themselves at high tables either along the bright yellow walls, or near the wide-open storefront windows in good weather, and practice people-watching on 9th Avenue.