Pappardella is just a short walk from Central Park, but it feels like an authentic Italian trattoria. Inside, a colorful mural of Florence sprawls across the walls. The menu sticks to traditional Italian cuisine, using homemade sauces and pastas to craft entrees such as rigatoni bolognese and linguine with roasted Brussels sprouts. Alternatively, diners can sample seared wild king salmon or pollo milanese made with free-range chicken. Pair entrees with a wine bottled directly from a wine river in Italy, or wrap up dinner with a dulcet tiramisu.
Much like an Italian piazza, an open square in the center of a town, Piazza 17 is a gathering spot where friends can meet for dinner or a glass of wine. The interior feels kind of like a rural Italian wine bar with tall wine racks lining redbrick walls and cheese plates served on rustic, wooden cutting boards. In the kitchen, chefs prepare two types of pizza. The first, a traditional round pizza, is meant for sharing, while the second, a large rectangular pizza, can be ordered by the slice or stuffed whole into a standard briefcase. Classic toppings on both include mozzarella, spicy soppressata, and mushrooms.
Behind a Brazilian mango wood-slab bar stands Ariel Lacayo, Grata's manager and house sommelier. His practiced pours grace grails with New- and Old-World vintages that pair perfectly with Chef Meny Vaknin's menu of fresh Mediterranean cuisine. By incorporating Italian flavors and bold spices into traditional recipes, Chef Vaknin's dishes bear a distinctively modern touch without relying on garnishes of cybernetic lettuce. All the while, a gauzy glow of subdued lighting glimmers off wood accents and exposed brick walls within the elegant eatery.
White linen tablecloths and wooden wine racks complement Savore's hearty Northern Italian fare profiled by New York Magazine. More than 220 wines wait to be paired with Tuscan recipes, whose ingredients—including cockle clams, roasted lamb chops, and buffalo mozzarella—date back to the days of Michelangelo. New York Magazine highlights the wine bar in the backroom, a.k.a. Boutique del Vino, where dinner guests can get to know Italian wines by tasting notes, smelling bouquets, and listening to the warble of wineglass-rim choruses.
Perhaps it’s the slow, bluesy chords flowing from the guitarist in the corner that compel the customer to put down her drink, pick up a stick of chalk, and scrawl a wistful message on the bar. Or perhaps it’s the flicker of candles––their golden halos staving off the city night––that has inspired this misty-eyed inscription. Far from being annoyed at the graffiti now adorning his workspace, the bartender leans over to read the patron’s message, smiling knowingly at the freshly penned late-night bulletin. With a grin and a poured glass of wine, he coaxes a smile from her as she swipes her words from the board.
Such intimate, inviting evenings are a regular occurrence at Sweet Grapes Wine Bar, where a vast collection of vinous libations and snacks keep guests chatting and laughing into the wee hours of the morning. The chalkboard-topped bar affords customers a blank expanse to fill with favorite quotes or high-school locker combinations, while an ever-changing lineup of musicians floods the space with live tunes on a regular basis.
Like any good basement, Cellar 58 is full of secrets. Hidden in the back of the East Village eatery is a wine-tasting room—recently described as "elegant" by New York magazine—that shelters more than 150 varietals hailing from such overlooked countries as Greece and Bulgaria. Two-dozen wines can be poured by the glass, including several culled from the vineyards of Italy, France, and similarly eminent regions.
There also lurks a surprising treasure in the front dining room. Marble-topped tables play host to entrees and small plates prepared by chef Fabio Bano, who comes to Cellar 58 from the ultra-private 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.