When you enter Accademia di Vino, it is like stepping into the coziest Italian wine cellar that, just for a moment, feels as if it’s all yours. Since the restaurant boasts an 800-bottle collection, you can never run out of options. And a book-like wine list highlights bottles from each region of Italy, broken down by type, color and area. It reads like a well-loved novel and includes a glossary of grape varieties.
After careful deliberation, we chose a bottle of the Eugenio Bocchino Barbera d’Alba ($47), a full and meaty wine that worked swimmingly with the heady Italian fare Accademia di Vino offers. We toasted to the establishment’s clean décor, thus far friendly service and getting out of Brooklyn to try chef Kevin Garcia’s popular venture. Spoiler alert: We were not disappointed.
For starters, we ordered a formaggi plate with three cheeses ($15): a smooth and sweet New York Coach Farm triple crème goat cheese, a hard and fruity taleggio from Lombardy and a buttery (with hints of nut) Ascutney Mountain, from Cobb Hill, Vt. We also tried the
prosciutto and Parmigiano fritters ($12), golf ball-sized orbs of bliss that melt in your mouth with a richness intensified by deep-frying. These beauties came six to an order, way more then you need between three people and most likely the cause of fullness well before the other courses.
Off the pizza alla griglia menu, or “grilled pizza,” we ordered the pumpkin, pancetta and caramelized onion dish ($18) and were shocked by its dinner-platter-size. You can easily eat this thin crust pie for your main course or share among the table. And share you must, as it’s too good to keep to yourself. The small, tender chunks of pumpkin retained their firmness and melded with the caramelized onion, creating a sweet but savory dish. These two ingredients overshadowed the pancetta part, but the cured meat added a nice salty kick to the pizza.
Dipping into the primi, otherwise known as the pasta portion of the menu, we sampled a divine spaghetti alla carbonara ($20). This often overdone and heavy dish turned out to be light and airy, with a pleasant pepper bite at the end. A true assessment of Garcia’s knack for Italian cooking, the flavors of the guanciale (an unsmoked Italian bacon), scallion, egg yolk and cracked black pepper in this pasta dish mingled well, with nothing overpowering the smoothness of the sauce or the flavor of the noodles.
At this point, it was time to order another bottle of wine. The Barbera was excellent, but heavy, so we opted to try something else. The waiter was more then willing to recommend something lighter (and did so without making us feel ignorant, as so many upscale wine bars can do). We ended up going for a bottle of the Hofstatter Pinot Nero ($56). Its light peppery notes and mild sweetness went down easily with the last dishes.
Since everything we tried proved heavy on meat, cheese and starch, we ordered a side of fried Brussels sprouts ($9), which came flecked with small chunks of salty pork. Despite being fried, they held their texture well and added a nice green kick to the heritage pork porterhouse ($32), which was one of the thickest pieces of hog I have ever seen. We all know pork can’t stand alone; it came topped with blackened bacon (think Bacon Bits, but real food and infinitely superior), a side of tender roasted potatoes and a crisp hunk of grilled radicchio. The porterhouse came out medium-rare, another first for me in the pork realm, but it worked well. Tender, juicy and with a nice dry rub cooked into the meat on the outside, each bite tasted like a savory sliver of a non-Kosher paradise. This leads me to the only issue (but not really a problem) facing Accademia di Vino: the lack of vegetarian or non-pork fare. I suppose the Italians never thought twice when they started adding cured pork to everything—and honestly, I am glad this restaurant sticks to tradition.
Accademia di Vino
1081 Third Ave. at
East 64th Street
Entrées: $16 to $38
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