Note: Terroir in the East Village closed in January 31, as part of the culinary divorce between chef Marco Canora and sommelier Paul Grieco. The East Village location is now a wine bar called Fifty Paces, which Canora owns. Terroir Tribeca remains open, under Grieco’s control, and there is also a Highline outpost in the warmer months.
It takes a lot to draw me over to First Avenue on a weeknight, which is about as far out of my commuting path as I could get without leaving Manhattan. But when I heard that sommelier Paul Grieco (Hearth, Insieme) was opening a new wine bar, I had to give it a try.
It’s called Terroir, for the French word that describes the “sense of place” that gives each wine its personality. Grieco’s partner, Marco Canora, is in charge of the food, which includes several favorites from his tenure at Craftbar, and other snacks that go well with the informal bar setting. There isn’t much of a kitchen in the tiny space at Terroir, but a lot of the food comes from Hearth, which is just 30 yards down the street.
The vibe is very East Village-y, including the gentle price point. There are over twenty wines offered by the glass, from just $5 to $19, with many at $10 or less. All are also offered by the half-glass. The variety is hard to characterize, but rest assured anything Paul Grieco offers will be compelling.
The wine list at Hearth is famously verbose, but for now the much smaller list at Terroir is limited to the bare facts. “There’s not much literature in it yet,” Grieco said. “Right now, it’s like an e. e. cummings poem.” I suspect it won’t be that way for long.
The food menu fits on one page: bar snacks ($4–5, or 6 for $22); fried stuff ($7); salads ($7–8); bruschetta ($6–7); charcuterie ($4–5, or assortment $21); cheese ($3.50, or 6 for $20); soup ($8); panini ($9) and large plates ($15), with generally four or five choices in each category. The large plates include such choices as veal & ricotta meatballs, braised duck leg, sausage, and broiled sardines.
I ordered the charcuterie assortment ($21), which came with about nine different kinds of hand-cut meats (which is more than I saw listed individually on the menu), a terrific pork terrine, and sliced bread. Canora explained each one, but I won’t attempt to duplicate his descriptions.
I asked Grieco to pair wines with it. He chose a contrasting white from southern Italy and a red from France; for both, he opened a fresh bottle and gave me a small taste before pouring a glass. I was charged half-glass prices ($4.00/$4.75) for what seemed to me generous pours. They were wonderful choices, as I have come to expect from anything Grieco recommends.
The small space was full, but I had no trouble getting a bar stool after about five minutes’ wait. This being opening night, a lot of the customers were friends of the owners, stopping in to say hello. For such a small space, it seemed to be well staffed, with everyone pitching in: Canora cleared plates; Grieco dried glassware.
Now that Canora and Grieco have three restaurants, there is one problem: I don’t know where Grieco will be. I trust that the kitchens can execute Canora’s cuisine in his absence, but who will be there to recommend wines? Wherever Grieco is working on any given day, that’s where I want to dine.
Terroir (413 E. 12th Street east of First Avenue, East Village)