Ariel Arce is opening Niche Niche with the hope of democratizing wine appreciation.
At Niche Niche, which opens Monday night in the West Village, everyone in New York City will have a standing invitation to Ariel Arce’s twenty-five-seat dinner party. (Her dream guests, she says, are Bill Murray, Stevie Wonder, and her parents). Every weeknight at 6 and 8 p.m., diners get to try four different wines that were hand-picked by the night’s host who “sells, makes, writes, or educates” about wine for a living. In the kitchen, chef Zach Fabian and his team will create a coursed, family-style menu to go with each night’s selections.
“It’s not like a traditional experience where a somm is pairing the wine to the food,” Arce says. “It’s the other way around.”
Although this is an elevated dining experience for wine lovers, Arce says that Niche Niche is ultimately a celebration of gathering friends, meeting new people, and, first and foremost, talking about wine with the experts in an unpretentious, intimate setting.
“When you work in this business, you get the opportunity to go to tastings and learn from winemakers. You’re expected to take that information and share it with your customer, but the customer never actually gets that one-on-one action,” she says. “We want to create this community of wine lovers who finally get the opportunity to learn from the direct source.”
Niche Niche is Arce’s third venture in the neighborhood following buzzy champagne bar Air’s and its accompanying izakaya restaurant Tokyo Record Bar. She says she wants the restaurant to become a space that feels especially welcoming for young people in small New York City apartments who often––by necessity of astronomical rents and tiny living spaces––find themselves spending time with their friends at bars and restaurants instead of hosting each other in their own homes. Niche Niche, Arce says, is meant to step in and feel like that home––and the best part, perhaps, is that she and her team will take out the trash and do the dishes at the end of the night.
Although the restaurant is already booked up with hosts from opening night through the end of April, Arce says she’s ultimately looking to keep Saturday nights open for non-hosted dinners. On those evenings, guests will have a chance to interact and learn about wines chosen specifically by the staff alongside an à la carte menu.
As much as Niche Niche is a wine bar, a restaurant, and a dinner party folded into one cozy, terracotta-hued space, Arce has also built something of a classroom.
“As someone who spent their time focused on champagne for the last eight years, I still very much feel like a student of wine,” she says. “There will be a ton of people with name recognition on our calendar, but to stay true to what this concept is, we’ll also definitely work with people that nobody knows from a name perspective, because those people are some of our favorite people in wine, as long as they’re passionate.”
Niche Niche, 43 Macdougal Street, New York, NY.