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An Uptown Wine Bar with Downtown Sensibility

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I’ve been continuing my search for the perfect wine bar and was thrilled when I learned a few weeks ago that the owners behind the hidden Upper East Side gem, Erminia, would be opening a wine bar up the street. I imagined it would echo the intimate feel of the restaurant, but Café Notte is a large 21,000 square foot room that is part restaurant, part wine bar, part coffee house. It even offers a children’s menu. Only three weeks old, its wine and food menu are still limited and a lot wasn’t available when a friend and I visited opening night. Our bartender was extremely helpful with wine suggestions and I was intrigued to learn that the design is eco-friendly.

While not new, Vero Panini & Wine Bar has become my new favorite cheap eats place. Every Monday you get a free panini when you purchase any alcoholic beverage. My favorite so far is the salty-sweet combo of prosciutto, black mission fig and gorgonzola with a glass of Rancho Zabaco Zin. Vero also has the best trashy dessert I have yet to encounter in NYC: The Cookie Monster, an enormous, warm chocolate chip cookie not quite baked through the middle that is topped with whip cream and strawberries. When the bartender told me he wakes in the night dreaming of the Cookie Monster and wanting to come open the bar I believed him – it’s that good!

After nearly a month of wine bar hopping I’d made some fantastic discoveries but nothing that rivaled Gottino…until last Saturday. I met friends at Felice Wine Bar, a new uptown spot that perhaps Williams’ would even appreciate despite the “wine bar” in its name. The brick-walled space has just the right amount of tables and super-comfy, extra-large cushioned bar stools. Although the room was packed the atmosphere still felt laid back and relaxed. That downtown vibe can no doubt be attributed to the fact that the owners of Sant Ambroeus are partial owners here and Felice also shares the same chef and wine buyer. I decided upon a toothsome bowl of risotto though all of the entrees sounded appealing and I know I’ll be back to share small plates with friends. The well-priced wine list includes bottles from partner Jacopo Giustiniani’s Tuscan vineyard (the Vermentino was beautifully crisp) and I loved that the bartenders always offered a small taste before pouring a glass.

And just when I felt like I had a thorough hold of New York’s wine bar scene I get a call from Patrick Watson, owner of Smith & Vine wine shop and the great cheese and specialty food store Stinky BKLYN http://www.stinkybklyn.com/: He’s opening a new wine bar this month. My pursuit for the ultimate wine bar seems to have just begun.

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