Wave of Wine Bars Comes to Upper West Side
By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Move over bagels, and make way for vino.
The Upper West Side is fast becoming a bottleneck of wine bars, with several opening in the past year.
Two recently started up within a block of each other: Osteria Cotta at 513 Columbus Ave. between West 84th and 85th streets opened in early March, hot on the heels of Tarallucci e Vino at 475 Columbus Ave. and West 83rd Street, which opened in late January.
Like most of their competitors, they specialize in small plate eats paired with a robust wine selection.
They join a roster of Upper West Side wine bars that includes — to name a few — The Tangled Vine on Amsterdam and West 81st; Bin 71 on Columbus Avenue and West 71st; Buceo 95 on West 95th and Amsterdam; Bar Luna on Amsterdam and West 85th; and Accademia di Vino on Broadway between West 90th and 91st streets.
Upper West Side food writer Laura Weiss, who writes the blog Food and Things and recently published "Ice Cream: A Global History," says the wave of wine bars cresting over the neighborhood is part of a larger trend of restaurateurs discovering that there's culinary life above 59th Street.
Wine bars are following in the footsteps of downtown restaurants — including Fatty Crab, Luke's Lobster and Ditch Plains — that have set up outposts on the Upper West Side, Weiss says.
"They started out in the so-called cool neighborhoods and then business is good and they want to expand," Weiss said. "Instead of going to Teaneck, they go to the closest 'burb, the Upper West Side."
She added, "People are realizing that people on the Upper West Side, even if they have kids and they're pushing strollers and it's largely residential, do like to eat good food and drink good wine ... and they don't always want to go below 14th Street to get something decent."
That's why Luca Di Pietro, owner of Tarallucci e Vino, opened a location on the Upper West Side. Di Pietro, a parent who lives on West 93rd and West End Avenue, said he was sick of journeying to Union Square to get a quality cappuccino, so he opened a place in his own neighborhood.
Tarallucci e Vino is a wine bar at night, but serves traditional Italian pastries, coffees and panini during the day.
Di Pietro said wine bars made sense during lean economic times, when diners were looking to stretch their dollars. Wine bars that served shared plates or tapas gave customers a cheaper dining option, he said.
"People want to be more flexible," Di Pietro said. "People don't have as much disposable income as they used to, but they still want to go out."
Turgut Balikci, owner of Bar Luna wine bar and several other Upper West Side restaurants, says wine bars have found a ready audience in the neighborhood in part because of demographics.
"It's a little bit to do with age," Balikci said. "Most [Upper West Siders] are between 35 to 50. When you go downtown or to the East Village or the Lower East Side, most of them are 20 and they like heavy liquor. People on the Upper West Side, they love wine."