Sergio Esposito, widely considered among the premier authorities on Italian wine, shares his vast expertise with New Yorkers at this boutique shop in Union Square. Calling Italian Wine Merchants a shop may be a misnomer, however, as its shelves are almost bare.
“People walk in and ask if we’re going out of business,” joked IWM President Christopher Deas, who explained that their impressive inventory of wines from every region of Italy, parts of France, and beyond is stored in a downstairs cellar. “The upstairs is more of a showroom. We really believe in temperature control.”
Those who enter IWM can rest assured that they are in good hands, as Christopher maintained that the shop was the first in the city to specialize in Italian wine. Since the beginning, they have stocked both “wines that have become icons as well as bottles from tiny, artisanal producers that were being overlooked.”
Sergio’s strength was in scouring the nooks and crannies of Italy and bringing the wines back to New York. Much of IWM’s collection of vintage wines is thanks to Sergio’s efforts, who tracked down Italian restaurants that were about to shutter and picked through the contents of their cellars.
Although they tend to cater to the avid wine collector, Italian Wine Merchants have wine for every palette and budget - from $15 to $15,000. For those who would like to improve on their wine education, IWM offers a weekly Saturday afternoon wine tasting. Customers are encouraged to peruse the calendar online and then to sign up for what seems appealing. Either their in-house "educator" or an expert from a particular vineyard leads the class. Private events can also be arranged for large gatherings, as well as intimate wine-tasting dinners led by their sommelier. Italian Wine Merchants rocks the senses with an eating and drinking experience not to be missed.
In keeping with the original nautical theme from the 1960′s, each room in the hotel has a porthole window and is decorated with teak wood. In 2014, the hotel’s restaurant La Bottega closed to make room for La Sirena by Mario Batali. The Cabanas, open in the spring and summer, is on the rooftop and offers a welcome reprieve from the city streets when the weather permits.
No matter what time of day we have stopped by Grey Dog, the restaurant is pulsing, but in a quiet, relaxed sort of way. Despite the lines to order food from the menu on the chalkboard and the crowded tables, everyone is calm and content. Apparently, this has been the vibe since two brothers opened their first restaurant back in 1996 on Carmine Street. Today they have expanded to four different locations, each one incredibly successful. The formula seems to be quite simple – a chill atmosphere, easy-going but efficient staff, a menu that covers all of the basics with a bit of a flair, hefty portions and, most importantly, everything tastes great. Beginning early in the morning, there are pancakes, French toast, eggs, homemade granola and coffee being served. As the day progresses, lots of sandwiches, salads and other creative dishes are available for lunch and dinner. Without a doubt, if I lived nearby, I would also become a regular.
Trendy and filled with beautiful people, the Dream Hotel has created quite an aura around it. Sitting in the lobby is certainly entertaining at any hour of the day, but in the evening the action really kicks in. There is a DJ in the lounge area right off the lobby and not far from the entrance is Bodega Negra, with a Mexican menu. Also attached to the hotel is a restaurant called Fishbowl, with a 5000 gallon fish tank behind the bar. On the rooftop, the PHD Club tends to play top 40's music, and downstairs is the Electric Room, which is described as a rock club.
I learned of Agnes B's clothing while in college and studying abroad back in the '70's. Somehow, even then, I knew to appreciate her simple French designs for women. It wasn't until I was much older, however, that I was able to purchase a few of her pieces for myself, and I truly treasure them. It seems that many of Agnes B's stores are closing around the country, but here's to hoping that she can continue here in New York.