There is something comforting about familiarity. You go to the same place, order that dish you like and go with the wine that’s the old stand-by. You know what you’re going to get and you’ll know you’ll like it. It’s not a bad thing but sometimes you just need to break the habit - walk down a different street, surprise yourself, take a risk and hope for the best. Some of the best nights we’ve had are those where we’ve stepped outside of our comfort zone (Queens qualifies). Being adventurous can be exciting – and when it comes to wine, experimentation has lead to great rewards – both for the winemaker and the drinker.
This philosophy of adventure was the cornerstone in building the wine-list at Enoteca Barbone, a new wine bar and restaurant located at 186 Ave B (between 11th and 12th St.) Alberto, the owner, believes that there is nothing wrong with traditional wines, but is passionate about the wines that are “off the beaten path.” His vision for Enoteca Barbone is to introduce his customers to a wider range of varietals. This is an easy thing to do at Enoteca Barbone, since the Italian wine list is brimming with grapes and places that you may not know.
We sat at the small bar in the back - and I use the word small in terms of New York standards, with only three seats. Most of space is filled with tables for dinners and there’s a garden out back for those wanting to eat al fresco. We started our night with a glass of Vermentino di Sardinia Nacli, Sardegna 2005, $11, served in a quartino, so it’s really like two glasses. This was the perfect summer afternoon wine with notes of citrus, minerality and refreshing acidity. Developing wine-muscles we decided to push it a little further. Our next choice was the Poggio Argentato Fattoriale Pupille from Toscana. This wine, a blend of Traminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, was the favorite of the night and had a full luscious body with notes of apricots, honey, minerality and a slight herbaceous note.
By the time the night was over, we had tried Inzolia from Sicily and an off dry red fizzante from Oltrepo Pavese. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stay for dinner but the menu made us drool enough to appreciate that it had a protective plastic cover. It showed that creativity that we saw in the wine list. Steamed Bouchot mussels with ginger, coriander and brown beer, the chicken liver ravioli with brown butter sauce or the asparagus fries in a light wine batter with Pancetta Oil were just a few that jumped out at us. Most of the pasta entrees were between $12 - $15, which is great – that just leaves more money for wine.
We will certainly be making a repeat visit to Enoteca Barbone to try the food, have some more wine and maybe revisit some of our new favorites. Who knows this may even become our new stand-by. Somehow it feels a little less guilty.
Enoteca Barbone, 186 Ave B, between 11th & 12th Sts., 212-254-6047