Accademia di Vino New York
Even self-professed oenophiles will get schooled on their knowledge of Italian wines at this street-level wine bar, which boasts a 500-bottle cellar and regularly rotates twenty of those by the glass (priced between $8 to $25). The owner, Anthony Mazzola, is a restaurant and wine industry veteran. Former owner of Sutton Wine Shop and current owner of ‘Cesca on the Upper West Side, Mazzola has played an important role in putting together the extensive wine program at Accademia di Vino. Study your options of whites, reds, roses and bubbly presented on a chalkboard at the back of the bar or listed in a mock-marble notebook and divided by region.
Pizza and pastas are served at the subterranean trattoria, with salami and other lighter fare presented at the rectangular wood-and-granite bar upstairs. Anyone familiar with the grilled pizzas of Al Forno, the Italian restaurant in Providence, R.I., will be glad that Kevin Garcia, who once worked the dough there, is serving very satisfying clones of those crackling crusted gems at Accademia di Vino, where he is now the chef.
X-ray-thin crusts have judicious coatings of cheese — robiola, goat cheese, ricotta, sheep cheese — and sparing but flavorful toppings like broccoli rabe, black truffle pâté and soppressata. The tomato and mozzarella pie is dotted with cherry tomato halves and fresh basil. The pleasures include perfectly roasted red and yellow peppers and thin, delicately twisted Ligurian gnocchi in pesto with slivers of haricots verts. Prosciutto and Parmesan fritters are greaseless treats, delicious once they’ve cooled.
The restaurant appears determined to capture all current and past trends in Italian menus: food served raw, barely cooked and fully cooked; carpaccio, tartare and crudo; salumi and cheese; panini and crustless tramezzini; and the traditional antipasti, primi and secondi.
Eavesdropping to fellow patrons sitting on the studded-leather stools beside you is like a crash-course in Italian (a true sign of authenticity) and you can learn a thing or two about congeniality from the attentive bartenders. For this neighborhood joint, one thing’s for certain: its back to old school.
As long as people are not confused by the name, Accademia may well succeed in a spot where others have failed. It is not just a wine bar, though it has one on street level with 500 reasonably priced wines. There is also a subterranean dining room with much to admire.
Accademia di Vino plans to introduce wine programs that will include tastings, lectures, winemaker dinners, and food and wine pairing sessions. However the intention is not to be too academic, as the name may suggest. “We want for our guests to feel like they’ve entered a food and wine playground,” said Mazzola. “This is not a ‘shrine’ to cuisine, nor is it a ‘wine school’.”