Narrow with tall tin ceilings, brick and tile, bow-tied waiters, and a long white marble bar, Gottino is an in-part wine bar with an Old World feel. Near the entrance hangs a colorful glass fruit chandelier, an offering for the bountiful list of wines. Bottles line the back of the bar, along with bowls of olives, fresh fruits,and walnuts; charcuterie and cheese dominate half the menu, supporting such lovelies as Fava Bean Puree-Ricotta Bruchetta, and Walnut Pesto–both of which fell just a bit short of orgasmic.
After an unimpressive glass of rosé at the bar–La Scolca 2007 ($10/15/36) from Piedmont (too flat and flabby), Ellen and I relocated to a table in the garden. At 7:30 on a Friday night, I was surprised that there wasn’t yet a wait. And while at times the place was packed, the garden, with only five red tables, left us with lots of room to breathe.
On the menu there are twenty-five wines by the glass categorized by region, including: Piemonte, Toscana and Le Marche, Veneto, and Mezzogiorno (the southern portion of Italy that includes 7 or 8 regions); and if you choose to order a bottle, there’s even more. The blackboard lists 14 specials, including a few standards such as Verdicchio and Barbaresco–in addition to the many of which I’d never heard. Chiavennasca (local term in Valtellina for Nebbiolo), Nosiola, Grillo, and L’Enfer D’Arvier. There are over 2,000 indigenous varietals in Italy, and this is what makes the wines so alluring…but unless your equipped and really know your sh*t, including all idioms for the varietals that have them, you’re going to need a little guidance.
I dislike waiters who hover–filling your glass at the rate of a bottle an hour–limbs outstretched across your face grabbing plates. For the fly-free zone at Gottino, I was thankful. However, since the menu is without descriptions, I expected a certain level of engagement when ordering wine. With such a unique list, why not spread the love a little and encourage anyone’s desire to leave with a little knowledge. After this experience, I perused a few online ratings of the place, and most claimed the opposite–they found the staff informative and engaging. Perhaps we visited on an off night.
After pulling a few descriptions, we decided upon a bottle of Erbaluce Cuvée Tradizione 2004 Orsolani ($18/68) to celebrate the beginning of my summer break. And damn, was it delicious. Having undergone a second fermentation in the bottle, the Orsolani from Piemonte shows tiny bubbles, salinity, and minerality–aromas that rises to greet you like a lover’s breath before a kiss. Yeasty and with hazelnut, it has a lovely texture. Drinking without flutes,we were sad when it was gone.
Tucked away from the surrounding charmlessness of this particular strip of Greenwich Avenue, Gottino is not for a cheap date, but it is open for breakfast.
[Where: Gottino, 52 Greenwich Ave., New York, NY 10011]