If you and I have spoken in person before then there is a pretty good chance I’ve told you to go to Aria Wine Bar in the West Village. It’s a charming little spot serving Italian tapas in a variety of formats and flavors, in a space that is decidedly perfect. Well, Briciola is the sister restaurant, an uptown outpost located in Hell’s Kitchen, and I have to say, I think I like Briciola best.
“Briciola” means crumb in Italian, and this space is definitely a sliver of a place. Located on a side street just off of 9th Ave, this is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it place, due to the location and the glass windows.
Divided into a bar and a dining room, the overall space is tiny, but loaded with charm and design savvy. The bar (which also doubles as the kitchen) is the room you enter into, and there’s enough space to gather round and hunker down with the bartender, if that’s your thing. If you’re with a group, like I was, the dining room is where you’ll want to venture.
A large communal table fills the space, and you’ll be elbow to elbow with your neighbors. But even as someone who doesn’t really care for communal dining, I would say the situation is totally worth it, because the food is out of this world. We grabbed the end of the table, right by the windows, and were able to enjoy the eye candy walking by. Oh hi. Also, our eyes were on the wine bottles lining the space, as the room also doubles as a wine cellar.
The servers were friendly and knowledgeable, and were attentive without being suffocating. For the menu, the burrata is always on special, and while it may be a bit pricey, it is delicious. Burata is a creamy, rich cheese, something along the lines of a fresh buffalo mozzarella, but a bit softer, and with flavor teetering towards the softness of ricotta while still remaining savory. Served with prosciutto and bread, the special could easily be a meal in and of itself.
Another appetizer, the artichokes and aloes are my unexpected favorite. A spicy tomato sauce wraps the veggies in flavor, and provides a beautiful contrast to the typical dairy and tomato flavors on the menu. The meatballs are always a solid choice, as are the goat cheese filled eggplant, although I might caution that there is just a bit too much goat cheese in those.
For my entree, I went with the tortellini with peas, served in a cream sauce. It was a nice alternative to a typical red sauce, but it wasn’t too heavy, and was filling. The pasta itself was perfectly done with just a bit of al dente bite, and the portions were perfect, teetering on “too much” without crossing the line. My friend had the grilled octopus salad, and while that’s not my thing, he said it was delicious, and I have to admit, even I was tempted, as it arrived beautifully presented.
Overall, the smaller size, delicious food, and neighborhood feel make this one of my new favorites in the city, and it’ll surely become my new go to place in town.
Photo by David Penner for Zagat