Posted on | January 21, 2016
Written by | Patricia Savoie
This trio of Manhattan eateries all have pairings front of mind
Tilting at a Wine Mill
On the border of Chelsea and the West Village, down a flight of stairs from 14th Street, is a surprising wine bar and restaurant: Mulino a Vino.
Owners Paolo Meregalli and Edoardo Marchiorello also own a wine import firm, as well as the original Mulino a Vino near Milan. They enticed Michelin-two-star Chef Davide Scabin to leave his Combal.Zero near Turin and bring to New York City his modern takes on classic Italian cuisine.
The menu is inventive, with just over a dozen items. Each item is offered in three sizes—small, medium and large, priced at $18, $32 and $45, respectively—to encourage family-style dining. Risotto Prosecco and strawberry, which is a fondue topped with freshly grated strawberry, or the Gnocco alla Romana, a Roman-style gnocchi with broccoli, mushroom and endives served with pecorino, or the Pollo alla Diavola, which is slow-cooked spicy chicken served with a beet reduction, show off his talents.
But even with all the culinary bling, wine is the first priority. There are 50 Italian wines by both the glass and bottle (thanks to the Coravin), plus a special Owner’s list of rarer bottles. Rather than listing by red, white and sparkling, the list is divided into four categories: Bright & Lively, Clean & Earthy, Smooth & Velvety, Big & Luscious.
To make wine/food pairings really easy, there are a few “Wine & Bites” listings, all for $18, including Popcorn with Bitter Prosecco and Ravioli with Poncale, a blend of Pinot Grigio, Fruilano and Ribolla from Friuli. “We make it easy to order wine with food.” says Meregalli. “You don’t have to be a chef or a wine professional. The menu matches wines with foods.”
Among the whites, there is a seldom-seen white Sangiovese “Droppello” Fertuna 2012, Tuscany ($13 glass/$26 half-liter/$45 bottle); a Pigato, “Cygnus” Poggio del Gorleri 2013, Liguria ($16/$32/$56); and Querciabella “Batàr” 2011, Tuscany ($38/$76/$152). Reds include the most popular wine, according to Meregalli—the Amarone Marchiopolo 2004 ($32/$64/$96). Also, Nebbiolo Bruno Giacosa 2012, Piedmont ($26/$52/$78); a Ruché, “Pro Nobis” Cantina Sant’Agata 2012, Piedmont ($20/$40/$70); and the Mollettieri “Irpinia” Aglianico 2010, Campania ($15/$30/$52).
Obicà: the House Mozzarella Built
Obicà launched in Rome just over ten years ago as the self-described “World’s First Mozzarella Bar.” Today it has branches in several Italian cities, London, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Dubai. In 2014, the group opened its New York City flagship in the Flatiron District—its second eatery in the city. Its signature product, Mozzarella di Bufala, has a “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO) and is produced only from the milk of Italy’s prized water buffalo. Obicà flies their mozzarella in from the Campania region two or three times a week. The creamy white blobs rest in glass tanks in a cloudy brine.
Obicà (slang for “Here it is”) offers four different kinds of mozzarella: Bufala Classica (slightly salty), Bufala Affumicata (smoked with hay), Burrata (solid outer curd shell with a soft, milky inside consisting of curd and fresh cream) and Burrata al Tartufo (black truffle). It is served fresh or as fried mozzarella in carrozza, on bruschetta or as a topping on several pizzas. In addition, there is a full Italian menu.
Managing partner and CEO Raimondo Boggia is justifiably proud of their outstanding all-Italian wine list. Wines by the glass ($12 to $20) include the excellent Ferrari Perle Trento 2007 DOC sparkling Chardonnay (organic, $20); a Caravaglio Salina Bianco IGP 2014 Malvasia (organic, $13), and Fontezoppa Carpignano Vernaccia di Serrapetrona DOC 2009 Vernaccia Nera Red ($15). Every day at 3:00 pm the sommelier opens a double-magnum of an unusual wine to pour by the glass (prices vary).
The bottle list is impressive, with all Italian wine-producing areas represented and real depth in Piedmont and Tuscany. While there are several bottles priced at over $300—the Renato Ratti La Morra DOCG Rocche Marcenasco Barolo 1997 and 1999 ($390) for example—there are about 75 priced at $60 or under. A Casale del Giglio Cesanese del Piglio DOCG 2012 from Lazio ($60); Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi Vesuvio Piedirosso DOC 2013 from Campagnia ($52); or the Cavicchioli Vigna del Cristo Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC 2014 from Emilia Romagna ($46) are just some interesting examples.
Fit for a Kingside
The Viceroy Hotel on West 57th Street is home to Kingside restaurant, a joint venture of Gerber Group and restaurateur and Chef Marc Murphy of Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy. With its sleek black and mirrored décor, Kingside takes its name from the black-and-white checkerboard floor (like a chessboard). The bistro-ish menu features roasted snails; a braised pork shank; a sandwich of maple bacon, avocado, and roasted tomato on rye; pan-roasted scallops with turnips; and a 32oz Cowboy Ribeye.
The wine list emphasizes the global scope of the menu with a selection of 100 wines, offered by the half and full bottle, as well as the quartino (one quarter of a bottle, about 6 oz). But no by-the-glass offerings. There also is an extensive selection of regionally brewed craft beers.
Assistant Manager and Head Sommelier Elphin Murren created the list with Benchmarc’s David Lombardo. Murren, who was just named one of the five best-dressed sommeliers in the U.S. by GQ magazine and Penfolds Winery, notes, “The quartino allows us better inventory control over a glass pour, which can be inconsistent. The computer will automatically deduct 1/4 of a bottle for each quartino sold.”
The Quartino offerings include an Alvarinho Vinho Verde Vidigal 2014 from Portugal ($12); Garganega (Soave) Pieropan 2014 ($12); Steele Shooting Star Pinot Noir 2013 from California ($13); and a Tempranillo, El Coto Crianza 2010 from Rioja, Spain ($13).
Murren notes that half-bottles allow them to offer pricier, unusual wines at a lower cost. The dozen half-bottles (a feature of Benchmarc restaurant menus) include a nice Aligoté Olivier Leflaive 2011 Burgundy ($28), the Austrian Blauer Zweigelt 2012 from Nitthaus ($28) and an Amarone Le Ragose delle Valpolicella 2006 from the Veneto ($68).
Some of Murren’s favorites from the bottle list are the white Rioja from Palacios Remondo 2009 ($75) and a Cornas from Vincent Paris 2012 from the Rhône Valley ($86). Nice values are the Minervois L’Ostal Cazes Estibals 2012 from the Languedoc ($58) and an Italian Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from Torre Fornello in Emilia-Romagna ($75).