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Quenching an Ecofriendly Thirst

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Almost a year after Alice Waters, Chez Panisse founder and national ecogastronomic conscience, banished bottled water from her menu, New York restaurants have started to follow her lead, installing filtration systems and carbonating on the premises. But as it turns out, just because it’s “tap” (or from New Jersey) doesn’t mean it’s free. Introducing the “sustainability surcharge.”

RESTAURANT
Gemma

335 Bowery, at 3rd St. 212-505-7300

METHOD
Tap water is filtered by reverse osmosis, a process where intense pressure forces water through a membrane to clear out impurities. To make sparkling water, tap water is triple-filtered, then carbonated—a system co-owner Sean MacPherson plans to institute at Waverly Inn, where flat, reverse-osmosis water is currently served free of charge. (Bottled water is also on the Waverly menu.)

PRESENTATION
Both sparkling and flat are served in one-liter glass bottles stenciled with the Gemma logo and sealed with porcelain gasket caps (think of a Grolsch beer bottle).

CHARGE
$5 per bottle.


RESTAURANT
Bobo

181 W. 10th St., at Seventh Ave. 212-488-2626

METHOD
Owner Carlos Suarez installed Natura, an Italian water-purification system, which uses a carbon filter and then a UV light to zap any bacteria. Post-purification, fizz is added to make it sparkle.

PRESENTATION
Both flat and sparkling are served out of Artecnica carafes made with recycled glass.

CHARGE
$1 per person, noted on the menu to cover the cost of the purification system. Any overage is donated to Charity: Water, a fund that builds wells in Africa.


RESTAURANT
Del Posto

85 Tenth Ave., nr. 15th St. 212-497-8090

METHOD
After lunching with Waters, co-owner Joe Bastianich was inspired to go local. The restaurant’s water originates in a New Jersey spring. It’s piped to nearby High Point Brewing Company and put through a cellulose-fiber filter, then a carbon filter, then heated to 170 degrees for ten minutes. Minerals (calcium and magnesium among others) are reintroduced for “flavor.” It took three months of taste tests with Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich to hit on the right “recipe.”

PRESENTATION
Flat and sparkling are served in custom-made glass decanters etched with the Del Posto logo. A fact sheet detailing the water’s mineral makeup is available upon request.

CHARGE
$6 per bottle, which is $2 less than they used to charge for Pellegrino.


RESTAURANT
Gottino

52 Greenwich Ave., nr. Perry St. 212-633-2590

METHOD
Partner Jody Williams bought a secondhand filtration system online and installed it herself. Reverse osmosis for flat water, triple filtering and carbonating for sparkling.

PRESENTATION
Customers are automatically given a small glass (a gottino) brimming with filtered water. Glass apothecary bottles filled with flat and sparkling stand on the counter; when lunch service begins, customers will simply help themselves.

CHARGE
“Wait—people charge for water?” says Williams. “Get out of here! They’ve got balls.”


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