Wednesday March 17, 2010
New York City:
A Voce Columbus
Restaurant offshoots don't tend to get buzz, but the second A Voce has generated as much as the first did. "I never expected we'd get this much attention," says chef Missy Robbins. Credit the incredible view, new dishes like pancetta with pork belly and figs, and bottles like the 2006 Ornellaia Le Volte ($58) on wine director Olivier Flosse's impossibly deep list.
Owner Danny Meyer led Gramercy Tavern alum Nick Anderer on an epic five-meal-a-day tour of Rome to research dishes like malfatti al maialino (suckling-pig ragù with hand-torn pasta and arugula). The almost-exclusively Italian wine list includes finds like the earthy 2001 Bovio Barbera d'Alba Regiaveja ($52).
Marc Vetri (an F&W Best New Chef 1999) is a master of sophisticated Italian, but lately, he's been skewing casual. His newest place, Amis, specializes in Roman comfort food. Vetri got the idea during a meal at Rome's La Matriciana restaurant: "I was floored by the simplicity of the flavors," he says. Amis's industrial-chic space doesn't look like a trattoria, but dishes like the gnocchi alla romana with oxtail ragù convey an authentically rustic feeling. The succinct wine list has just two dozen Italian bottles, and all are available by the glass, like the minerally 2008 Bonci Carpaneto Verdicchio ($44), which reminds sommelier Jeff Benjamin of the Adriatic Coast.
Bar La Grassa
Chef Isaac Becker of 112 Eatery opened his latest place in part so he could cook pasta every which way: "Dry and fresh pastas both have their merits. I get to showcase them side by side." Becker uses dry Rustichella d'Abruzzo pasta for dishes like his rigatoni with milk-braised chicken and makes fresh pasta handkerchiefs to serve in a pesto sauce with whole basil leaves. The wine list covers the globe but is strong on Italy, as evidenced by bottles like the 2007 Elio Perrone Sourgal Moscato d'Asti ($36) from up-and-coming winemaker Stefano Perrone.
Tony's Pizza Napoletana
Tony Gemignani won the Naples World Pizza Cup, earning him true pizza cred. His new restaurant, which is connected to a school that helps prospective pizzaiolos get certified by the Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli, churns out pies from three different types of ovens—wood-burning, electric brick and gas brick. Each day, Gemignani makes exactly 73 of the Margherita that won him the cup, as well as California-style pizzas with jalapeños and hot sauce and New York pies covered with sausage and peppers. Wines come from Napa and Italy, with picks like the cherry-inflected 2007 Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria ($42) from Sicily.
Alon Shaya, formerly of Besh Steak, partnered with F&W Best New Chef 1999 John Besh on this homey Italian restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel. Shaya worked in kitchens around Italy for a year to develop the menu, which includes house specialties like limoncello, salumi and pasta. Then there are the pizzas, made in a Pavesi wood-fired oven with a rotating stone deck. "Ours is new and the only one of its kind in America," Shaya says. He uses pecan wood in the Pavesi for pizzas like his cotechino, topped with oven-dried tomatoes, scallions and pork sausage. Matching the food is an all-Italian wine list with well-priced bottles like the delicate 2007 Inama Vin Soave ($40).
Local foodies rarely travel downtown, but the new Wit Hotel is actually drawing them in with the recently launched Cibo Matto. Chicago native Todd Stein uses local products like Lake Superior whitefish, which he serves with saffron-scented fregola and crispy parsnips. The restaurant's airy design by the Johnson Studio, which also did TRU restaurant, includes a 4,000-bottle glass tower. The wine list is seasonal, with more whites in the summer and a red-heavy lineup in the winter, and bottles like the 2008 Grosjean Frères Pinot Noir ($59) from a family winery in the Italian Alps.
What do Texas and Tuscany have in common? "Big, bold flavors," says Bryan Caswell (an F&W Best New Chef 2009). At Stella Sola, Caswell's chef de cuisine, Justin Basye, creates hybrid dishes like bucatini carbonara with Gulf crab, as well as wood-roasted mussels with salsa verde; wines include Italian standouts like the hard-to-find 2008 Vietti Roero Arneis ($30).