Small plates pack big ambition at this delightful West Village (non) wine-bar
- By Jacqui Gal
Arriving at an “enoteca and salumeria” with a vegetarian is perhaps not the most inspired of ideas. But it certainly raises an interesting question: Can vegetarians still have fun in a veritable shrine to meat?
Leaving aside the pigs trotters, bresaola and prosciutto, though, there was still a whole swathe of menu dedicated to cheeses, crostini, salads and dessert at Gottino, the still-not-officially-opened West Village resto courtesy of Morandi’s Jody Williams.
Admittedly, it was a little difficult to resist trying something meaty when so many delectable items screamed out from the menu (even the baked apples are stuffed with garlic sausage).
Not that there was any kind of panic. On this Sunday night, my vegetarian friend and I were lucky enough to score a table (there are only a handful in Gottino’s small-ish rectangular space, which is dominated by a bar). Inside, there was some lively jazz being played, at a conversation-friendly level. We settled in for a glass of wine while we considered the menu.
There’s been much chatter around Williams’ declarations that Gottino was not a wine bar. Yet, it certainly feels like a wine bar. The regular wine list has dozens of Italian reds and whites (offered by the glass, carafe or bottle), while a chalkboard lists some 20 wine specials. Something about the place just entreats you to order a glass, so much so that the boutique beers and other beverages on offer hardly even register.
As was our prerogative at a small-plates venue such as this, we placed our order in dribs and drabs as the mood struck. Vegetarian immediately put her hand up for the Brussels sprouts, and we wrestled over which of the six crostini to choose. With the help of our waiter and the chef, who happened to be lingering by the bar, we choose the ones topped with butternut squash, radicchio and balsamic vinegar.
Despite the chef’s best suggestion, the crostini were a little bland (as our waiter had warned us, “It needs a little something”).
The Brussels sprout salad, on the other hand, took us by surprise. We were expecting them cooked, but they were served raw, thinly shaved and coated in a light olive oil and lemon dressing, dotted with walnuts and shaved Pecorino. One tasty dish, indeed.
The only thing this salad lacked was a suitable system for delivering it to the mouth. Served with tiny forks—which are probably great for olives—it was a tad difficult to navigate.
Moving on, we sampled a small hunk of the Nettle Meadow Kunik, a semi-aged cheese made from goat milk, Jersey cow cream and mould-ripened. It came with a slice of pickled pear (such an interesting flavor) and fig jam. Creamy, stinky and with a bit of a tang, this was a delicious newcomer to the menu that day. It’s a testament to a menu that’s in constant motion, and dedicated to using local, seasonal produce.
Emboldened by the wine and unable to resist, I benched the vegetarian and decided to order a meat-based dish to quench my curiosity. It was a toss up between the beef carpaccio with truffle aioli and the chicken-liver pate. I ordered the latter, which was presented in a jar, topped with thin slices of crusty, warm toast. It was heavenly. But without my vegetarian to help out with the eating, it was painfully clear to see exactly how much of the artery-clogging pate I was consuming. It had to stop.
With the desire to linger (it’s quite an inviting space), we grabbed a basket of nuts from the bar. Soon the crack of walnut and hazelnut shells was punctuating our conversation.
As we left, I considered returning, but next time with a posse of carnivores. And I would make sure they were big and tough, because I imagine that come summer there will be one hell of a fight for Gottino’s outdoor garden.
The net results: what people are saying online
New York Magazine: “Gottino adapts the familiar small-plate wine-bar format to its own Slow Food–inspired, seasonally dictated, often idiosyncratic ends. If there’s a wine-bar playbook…Gottino isn’t going by it.”
Yelp: “Their food (mostly tapas-sized) was good but not excellent and I think this would be a great place to start out your night or have a light meal.”
Gotham Gal: “Everything, including the wine was a treat….The place was rocking when we left. It is the perfect local hangout. Returning is not even a question.”
52 Greenwich Ave.
between Charles and Perry Sts.
Small plates: $4–$12
Wines $9–$18 per glass
Mon.–Sun. 4 p.m.–2 a.m.
Call ahead for brunch details