Accademia di Vino opened last month on the Upper East Side, in a cursed space that was home briefly to the Chinese restaurant Mainland, and even more briefly Ollie’s Brasserie. The new owners are the team from ’Cesca on the Upper West Side. Eager to ensure a success where previously there was none, they’ve taken no great risk here. What could be more trendy than an Italian restaurant/wine bar?
They have also attracted plenty of critical attention, most of it favorable, including a feature piece in the Sun, and reviews from Adam Platt, Gael Greene, and Andrea Strong. Restaurant Girl dissented, awarding just one star (the equivalent of zero in other publications). So far, the Times has given it only the Dining Briefs treatment (per Marian Burros). Could it be that Frank Bruni would pass on the chance to review another Italian restaurant?
The space has received a smart-looking makeover. There are bars on two levels and a large dining room in dark woods, with wine storage almost everywhere you look. The formula is working so far: 6:15 p.m. was the only reasonable reservation time I could get on a few days’ notice. The bar was already full when I arrived at 6:00—naturally, they wouldn’t put me at a table until after my friend Kelly arrived. Every table seemed to be taken by the time we left two hours later.
The menu is dizzyingly complicated, with appetizers in ten categories, pizzas, pastas, and entrées. I suppose there could be worse problems than overly attentive service, but something like four different servers approached our table within the first three minutes, and we hadn’t yet gotten our bearings on the lengthy menu. We eventually settled on three starters and two entrées to share.
The wine list has about 500 bottles, with a good selection by the glass—as you’d expect at a wine-themed restaurant. After discussing our interests, the server recommended a 2006 Bastianich Rosato Refosco by the glass ($10), which was excellent on a warm evening, and nicely complemented the food.
Salmon Carpaccio (left); Crudi Flight (right)
Salmon Carpaccio ($14) was beautifully prepared, with tomato, basil, scallions, olives, capers, and oregano basil—and no, I didn’t remember all of that. A flight of crudo ($24) was almost as brilliant, including an unexpected sliver of Wagyu beef that crashed the all-fish party. My friend Kelly got more of a thrill out of Roasted Cauliflower ($4) than I did, but it certainly seemed competent enough.
Somewhere along the line, fresh bread came. Later on we wanted more, but by then the restaurant had filled up, and servers were much harder to come by—though we eventually flagged one down.
We ordered two entrées to share, but oddly enough they brought both at the same time. I assume it was a considered choice, as there was no apology made for it, but it seemed a strange way to serve dinner.
Linguini Pescatore (left); Pork Chop (right)
Linguini Pescatore, or seafood pasta ($21) was nicely done. The pork chop ($27) came out whole, but when we sent it back to be divided, they made good work of it—making it look as if the chop was meant to be ordered for two. The preparation was entirely respectable, if not exactly inventive, but this time it was Kelly’s turn to be underwhelmed.
The final bill for two, including two glasses of wine apiece, came to $132 before tax and tip, which is a relative bargain for the amount of food we had. Accademia di Vino may not be breaking any new ground, but it’s a welcome and dependable entry on the Upper East Side dining scene. Service will surely get smoother over time, and the menu could use some serious pruning.
Accademia di Vino (1081 Third Avenue at 63rd Street, Upper East Side)