Wine bars are plentiful in NYC, but great wine bars are hard to find. Often, they are overpriced, underserviced, and with a very subpar menu. Aria avoids all of these pitfalls and goes above and beyond in every respect.
The atmosphere is ethereal and dreamy, but not too cutesy. A long farmhouse table in the center of the restaurant hosts many diners and the bar seats patrons on both sides, doubling the number of people who can sit. If you arrive with only half of your party, you will be promptly seated and offered drink service, and–as a major plus—this place takes reservations. The few cozy tables to the sides are ideal for a first date.
The wine list is varied, well priced, and focused, but not solely, on Italian varietals. There is often an herbal, light albarino from Spain that won’t break the bank, and the house prosecco is sweet and bubbly, an ideal aperitif. Though the wine is served in tumblers, the effect is charming, not lazy. Wines by the bottle are also plentiful.
The food, an area where so many wine bars fail, is where Aria excels. The bread that comes to the table is crusty and charred, with a tangy interior. Served with plump olives and spicy olive oil, it’s an ideal way to start the night. The pappardelle with veal Bolognese is toothsome and hearty, with a mild veal ragu that is lush and fragrant. On the lighter side of things, the mussels are sweet and tender, served in a garlicky white wine broth with more bread for dipping.
This wine bar goes above and beyond the call of duty – it is a wine bar, a full bar, a restaurant, and an ideal meeting place. The price is right, the service is attentive but not pushy, and the atmosphere is elegant without being uptight. It really raises the (wine) bar in NYC.