I've been enjoying this board for several months now and decided to "step up" and start posting. so, if you don't mind bearing with me, here's the first of hopefully many posts.
1) the rave -- inoteca
After and long and fruitless gloomy saturday spent looking for clothes, my girlfriend and i found ourselves hungry in the east village at about 4 pm. i had remembered there being some great buzz about the opening of inoteca, an italian wine/panini bar in the lower east side (sort of a branch of the original 'ino in the west village). we made the trudge down avenue a, past katz's deli, and found the place on the corner of rivington and ludlow.
the restaurant is warm, charming, a little funky/rustic, but very stylish at the same time. they have a large outside area on the sidewalk, but we chose to eat inside given the weather. Our server was very pleasant, attentive and professional, which was somewhat of a surprise considering how potentially hip/snobby a place like this could be.
anyhow, on to the food and wine:
the wines by the glass or carafe are all italian, which, admittedly, is a region that i don't know enough about. I was curious to try something besides a chianti or barbera, so I decided on a glass of the ciro, which is a fairly tannic southern red. Our server recommended we get a carafe instead of two glasses, which wound up being more wine for less money. (it was nice not to be pressured into spending the most amount of money possible, which seems to happen at a lot of places).
inoteca's menu is primarily composed of smaller sandwich-type dishes like panini, bruschetta and tramezzini, as well as some other tapas style plates. Most dishes were priced between 5 and 10 dollars, and while portions are fairly small, everything was top notch.
we split 3 dishes:
1) truffled egg toast.
i had read rave reviews for this dish at the other ino, and decided that i had to get past my usual hatred of eggs to enjoy it. It came out as a thick square of perfectly crispy grilled (fried?) toast, topped with melted cheese and a beautiful poached egg in the center, with black truffle butter on top. normally i get squeamish any time there is runny yolk involved, but this was positively incredible, and is something that i will be craving for quite a while.
2) mortadella and pickled red pepper tramezzini:
having never had a tramezzini before, i didn't know exactly what to expect. what we received were two smallish, triangular sandwiches with crustless bread (kind of like a gourmet italian approach to tea sandwiches). they were simply filled with mortedella, small pieces of pickled red pepper, and homemade aioli. surprisingly, this was my favorite dish -- it was some amazing gourmet version of an italian sub, and was simply delicious.
3) panini with soppressata, goat cheese, and olive pesto:
this was actually my least favorite (but still very good). the panini was nicely grilled and crispy, but in a way i thought the filling was just a little too strong. i absolutely love goat cheese, and i love olives, but the combination of the two was almost overpowering. in fact, i couldn't really taste much of the soppressata (which, i'm guessing, is some sort of relative to the prosciutto -- coppa family).
since portions are smallish, we were contemplating ordering more, but we werent terribly hungry to begin with, so we finished our wine and looked over the desserts (a side note about the wine -- it was a good, powerful red that had an interesting brick-red color, and was on the dry and herbal side. i think it was a little too young and tannic and wasn't the best match for our food, but that's my own fault since i decided to order it.)
the dessert menu was small but looked really good, with an interesting panna cotta, but what sold me was the affogato -- a glass of gelato literally "drowned" in a shot of espresso. (another side note -- i learned about this dessert from a post about "il labratoria del gelato", and we were actually thinking of going there for dessert, but decided to stick it out at inoteca instead of gettting lost on the l.e.s. in an impending thunderstorm).
the affogato was nothing short of amazing. the mix of wonderfully creamy, sweet and cold vanilla gelato and a rich shot of espresso was a truly transcendent experience, and one of the best desserts i've had in a while.
in short, this is an amazing place, and considering that our bill for 3 sandwiches, a carafe of wine and one dessert was only $40, i think it's quite reasonable. keep in mind, that if you're very hungry, you'll probably want to order a lot more, but at the least, you can experience some great flavors without spending a whole lot of money........
now, for the question (and my apologies for this being so long!)
my girlfriend and i just moved here a few months ago and after a rough job search, both got hired by the same company. so i think a celebration is in order. i've been thinking about the front tavern room at gramercy tavern as an affordable way to go have a great evening. any thoughts?
and thanks so much for having me on this board. thanks to chowhound we have discovered some amazing places in nyc, and look forward to many many more.