Bottega del Vino
Severino Barzan, owner of Verona’s legendary wine bar, Bottega del Vino, and indefatigable ambassador of Amarone, Veneto’s most distinctive wine, had no grand plans to expand Stateside. Then came 9/11, and Rudy Giuliani’s exhortations not to abandon New York. Barzan took his impassioned message to heart: Early next month, he plans to open his first American outpost in partnership with Via Quadronno, the uptown panini bar whose co-owner, Paolo della Puppa, was a schoolmate of his. (And, if all goes according to plan, with some front-of-the-house help from hospitality honchos Romeo Gobbi of Le Cirque and Rubrio Rossi, who owned Parioli Romanissimo.) The shrine to wine is a quasi-faithful reproduction, down to the proprietary stemware, and the menu showcases the original’s Veronese specialties—with one significant concession to the American palate: “You don’t eat horse.” We do drink wine, though, and Barzan wants Bottega to be an Everyman oenophile’s hangout, “a place where you can have fun for not too much.” But with access to vertical tastings and rare vintages of everything from Opus One to Château d’Yquem, “you can also ruin yourself.”
7 59th St., near Fifth Ave.; 212-223-3028
After dignifying Greek food at Molyvos and giving seafood a sophisticated contemporary spin at Oceana, the Livanos family branches out with an upscale Italian restaurant at the Blakely Hotel—a potentially trendy location, if its affiliated high-style properties (the Mercer, the Maritime, the Chambers) are any indication. To absorb the true flavors of regional Italy, chefs Jim Botsacos and Jake Addeo enlisted Italophile author Fred Plotkin as guide, and proceeded to cook and eat and drink up and down the boot. The result: an ambitious menu that mixes the familiar and the obscure, from salumi and crudo to mortadella-stuffed quail, duck-egg-and-prosciutto carbonara, and stinco di vitello for two.
136 55th St., near Sixth Ave.; 212-265-4000
Named for a Vietnamese mountain city, Sapa (like more than a few Manhattan restaurants before it) takes culinary inspiration from the country’s French-colonial history. The ensuing fusion, executed by former industry(food) chef Kenneth Tufo, extends to dishes like poached lobster and long beans with avocado mousse, duck–and–foie gras spring rolls with rhubarb marmalade, and apple-cider-braised monkfish with sweet-and-sour salsify. The room, designed by the Beard Award–winning firm AvroKO, is a fusion of sorts as well: of sleek, angular surfaces with a double-height gauze curtain, and of the new (a translucent onyx bar) with the old (turn-of-the-century beams and casement windows).
43 24th St., near Broadway; 212-929-1800
It’s one thing for a dive bar whose culinary ambitions begin and end with Cheez Doodles to allow its patrons to order in some grub every now and then. It’s another when an Italian café lists on its menu pizza delivered from up the block. Such a spot is No. 26, a new panini parlor within mortadella-tossing distance from Joe’s, the famously squalid slice joint. For $3.75 a slice (two-slice minimum) or $28 for a whole pie, a cook will clump over to Joe’s to pick up a pie, which you can enjoy in No. 26’s comparatively posh surroundings, and maybe even run into Joe himself: “We have a deal with him,” explains a waiter. “This is where he watches his soccer games.”
26 Carmine St., near Bleecker St.; 212-242-1196
Object of Desire
Although the Shake Shack will close for the season on November 8, the outrageous new pumpkin-pie “concrete” proves that frozen custard—served alfresco or not—really knows no season. Pastry chef Nicole Kaplan actually bakes from scratch the pumpkin pie that gets crushed and folded Oreo-style into frozen vanilla custard topped with whipped cream and cinnamon, which makes you wonder what she could do with a fruitcake come December.
Madison Square Park at 23rd St.; 212-889-6600