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New Washington Heights Wine Bar Offers Alternative to Bottle Service

 Kazza on West 177th Street opened in May.
Kazza Wine Bar
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WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Their Kazza es su casa.

The owners of Kazza Wine Bar, a new spot that opened last month at 708 W. 177th St., want to make sure that all of their customers feel right at home.

In fact, the bar’s name is a play on the word “casa,” which means house in Spanish.

“We have a lot of regulars already,” said Jose Reyes, one of the bar’s owners. “They know the bartenders by first name. We try to make everyone feel like family.” 

Reyes, 30, and his business partner Emanuel Nuñez, 32, initially considered opening a hookah bar but decided it wasn’t a good fit for the narrow space. Instead, they looked at what type of businesses were lacking in the area.

“The types of bars we have in the neighborhood, they play loud music, they have bottle service,” Reyes said. “We wanted to bring something different to the neighborhood, something where you could just come and relax, have a nice conversation with not too much noise.”

The entire venue seats about 25 people between the dark, granite-topped bar and a cozy back room filled with two-person tables.

The bar stocks about 25 different wines from around the world, as well as craft beers, sangria, and a few wine and beer-based cocktails. Glasses of wine cost between $9 and $16, while beers run about $6 each.

Reyes said Kazza's best-seller so far has been Chakalaka, a spicy blend of different reds from South Africa.

Although the space isn’t big enough to hold a full kitchen, a menu of small bites includes wine bar standbys such as a cheese plate and spiced olives. Other dishes, such as the mushroom empanada and the crab mango salad, nod to the Dominican cuisine prevalent in Washington Heights.

Reyes said that he hopes to expose people to new wines without making the process overwhelming or boring.

“I went to a wine bar about six months ago and it was like, 'All right, can I get back to my glass?”’ said Reyes of the bartender’s spiel about varietals.

While his staff is knowledgeable about the available wines, they probably won’t give you a lecture unless you ask for one, Reyes said.

To make sure the wine list feels accessible to even novice drinkers, it’s organized by superlatives: good, better and best.

The space itself has a similarly relaxed vibe.

A graphic-print mural adorns one wall of the bar’s interior, while the word “wine” is painted in bold red letters on the venue’s black façade. Paint drippings on another wall are meant to imitate the look of wine “legs,” the drops that stream down the side of a glass after taking a sip.

Kazza has garnered a five-star rating on Yelp, with reviewers calling it a “perfect addition to the neighborhood.”

Reyes said that many customers have told him the same thing.

“People really seem to appreciate it,” he said. “They come in and say, ‘I’ve waited so long for something like this. I’ve lived here for 10 years and always had to go elsewhere.’”

Kazza is open from 4 p.m. to midnight every day but Friday and Saturday, when it stays open until 2 a.m. The owners also hope to expand their offerings soon with live music once per week.