Yes, there is such a thing as the American Cheese Society. What’s more, it’s an honor of the highest degree to be named a member of that society’s inaugural class of Certified Cheese Professionals. Fromager Dimitri Saad counts himself among that prestigious group, and one trip to Casellula Cheese & Wine Café is enough to see why. Saad has curated a menu of more than 40 cheeses from around the world. The menu is divided into five sections: fresh, bloomy, washed, pressed/cooked, and blue. Cheese isn’t all that Casellula has going for it. Proprietor and wine director Brian Keyser has carefully designed a wine list to accompany the cheese and food menus, the latter of which focuses on contemporary American cuisine. In another wine bar, this focus on gourmet food and drink might come with more than a hint of pretension. Not here—Casellula welcomes guests to dress casually and order in Pig Latin for all they care.
A parade of bas-relief pastoral figures cavorts across the entryway of Delia?s Lounge, signaling both the spirit of revelry and the wealth of mesmerizing visual artifacts to be found inside. A fireplace warms a room stuffed to its plush gills with velvet sofas, leopard-print banquettes, wooden sculptures, and a giant reproduction of the Mona Lisa serenely surveying the cozy scene. Until the wee hours of the morning, the kitchen fills the small, candle-topped tables with a variety of appropriately shareable plates such as pan-seared crab-cakes, chicken quesadilla rolls, hamburger sliders, and shrimp cocktail with house-made horseradish sauce.
New York Magazine dubbed Delia?s a Critics? Pick, averring that ?you won't find tastier, or larger, cocktails in Manhattan.? Martinis range from the spare to the sweet: Hendrick's Gin bears a simple slice of cucumber, apple martinis blend liqueurs, vodka, and an apple slice garnish, and the Godiva white-chocolate martini presents vodka, cacao, and white-chocolate liqueur in a glass lined with a chocolate drizzle.
Like any good basement, Cellar 58 is full of secrets. Hidden in the back of the East Village eatery is a wine-tasting room that shelters more than 150 different bottles, including some that hail from overlooked countries, such as Greece and Bulgaria. In addition, the wine bar's frequently changing selection features more than 30 wines by the glass.
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Beyond the Wine List
There is also a surprising treasure in the front dining room. The marble-topped tables play host to entrees and small plates prepared by chef Fabio Bano, who comes to Cellar 58 from the ultraprivate Soho House. Using cooking methods that he learned and perfected in Italy, Bano handcrafts pastas and inventive desserts, which, like top-secret memos, melt satisfyingly upon entering the mouth.
Recently featured in Buffalo Rising, The Wine Thief navigates a laser-beam-guarded landscape to offer fine wine and a menu of inventive new American fare to Buffalo residents. The wine list boasts various vinos by the bottle or glass, eschewing fermented juice boxes in favor of more reliable receptacles. Worldly whites, such as the 1734 Vouvray ’06 (Loire, France), compete for imbibers’ taste buds against alternative reds, known for their early 1990s grungewear and soft-loud musical dynamics. The Wine Thief is also home to a Cuvee wine storage system, which keeps open wines fresh for up to two weeks, allowing a total of 36 by-the-glass wines to be ready at any one time.
When it comes to wine, David and Tasia Verno follow the same philosophy as Goldilocks: Why settle for one when you could try three? Trios of wines from across the world are thus a mainstay of their menu at Flight Wine Bar. These samplers come with themed names—Instant Zen and California Retreat, for example—and incorporate wines from Italy, Chile, France, and Germany in addition to the United States. There's the Bubbly Flight for sparkling wine enthusiasts, the alluring scents of Aroma Therapy, and Sweet Emotion, which matches a Red Newt riesling with a Bigi Orvieto Classico and an Elmo Pio moscato.
Of course, Flight Wine Bar also has wines available by the glass or bottle. In addition, the staff furnishes tables with artisanal snacks. Guests can order imported cheeses, such as the sycamore-leaf-wrapped Spanish valdeón. The dessert chocolates are all handcrafted, and the truffles are all handpicked from the secret truffle tree that you should absolutely not tell anyone about.
A restaurant is only as good as its head chef. Luckily, Tombolino has Pietro Siciliano. Recognized in 2010 by Bon Appétit as top chef in Westchester, Siciliano prepares scratch-made pastas and other Italian-style delicacies daily using imported ingredients and kitchen mastery learned during his training at the Culinary Institute in Italy. A selection of more than 500 wines pair well with Siciliano’s creations, which include house specialties such as almond-crusted chilean sea bass and veal milanese.