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Turning Tables: Danny Meyer's New Italian Trio Will Serve Wine, Roman Treats

Plus, Jean-Georges Vongerichten cannot stop opening hotel restaurants, and Stephen Starr closes the Continental's Miami outpost
Photo by: Ellen Silverman
Danny Meyer's trips to Italy have always been an inspiration for his restaurants.

Julie Harans, Victoria Sadosky, Lexi Williams
Posted: August 3, 2017

Danny Meyer Brings a Piece of Rome to New York

Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group restaurant empire will continue its expansion with two openings on the ground floor of New York's Redbury Hotel, next to his Award of Excellence–winning Marta. The Roman-style piazza will include Caffé Marchio and Vini e Fritti, set to open in August and September, respectively.

Caffé Marchio, a stand-up café, will offer traditional Italian coffee-bar selections such as espresso and shakeratos, as well as sweets by Jessica Weiss, the pastry chef at Marta and Maialino, another Restaurant Award winner in Meyer's group.

Also in the piazza, Vini e Fritti will serve fried Roman snacks with a bubbly-focused wine list overseen by Marta's wine director, Katie Morton. Morton says the idea is to create a welcoming space where the community can gather for casual bites and a great glass of wine. "It's a place where anyone can come to drink bubbles," Morton told Wine Spectator. She hopes to discourage the idea that sparkling wine should be reserved for special occasions.

The finished list will likely offer about 50 selections of mostly Champagne and sparkling wine. About five bubblies will be available by the glass, and all still wines offered by the glass will also be available by the bottle. Morton said she's particularly excited to introduce guests to lesser-known producers.

"[The] second generation in Champagne [is] doing really great things that are creating waves in Champagne and in the world of wine," she said. "I think that's exciting for people like me who are young Millennials and drinking wine. I think that's a cool story to tell."

Though exact opening dates have not been announced, the piazza will likely come hot on the heels of Martina, another Meyer restaurant set to open this month in the East Village. The pizzeria will feature a similar vibe, with Roman-style fare in a casual, counter-service setting. A single selection of each sparkling, red, white and rosé will be available by the glass. Martina will also offer a selection of half-bottles of Champagne.—J.H.

Back Again: Jean-Georges Opens in London's Connaught Hotel

Courtesy of The Connaught
Peas on toast epitomizes British elegance.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten may be one of the busiest chefs in the world right now. On the heels of his openings in New York, Los Angeles and São Paulo, the French chef just opened another eponymous restaurant at the Connaught hotel in London. The casual, all-day dining spot is his third in the capital.

"I am so excited to be returning to London at such a vibrant and dynamic time," Vongerichten said in a press release. "I'm constantly traveling the world and it's always the energy and diversity of this capital city that stimulates me most. The Connaught, the first hotel I ever visited in London, holds a very special place in my heart, and I am honored to play a part in its long culinary legacy."

Jean-Georges at the Connaught reflects Vongerichten's signature farm-to-table approach, taking inspiration from his other projects, such as the Grand Award winner Jean-Georges and Best of Award of Excellence winner the Mark, both in New York. The menus, which include breakfast, lunch, traditional British tea and dinner, have something for everyone, from a selection of English caviars to affordable pizzas. Executive chef Anshu Anghotra will oversee the kitchen day-to-day.

Mirko Benzo, head sommelier for the Connaught, worked closely with the Jean-Georges team in New York to create the wine program. With around 150 selections and nearly 40 by-the-glass offerings, the list is largely French, with representation from Italy, Spain, California, South Africa and more. On the dessert menu, a sampling of dessert wines includes selections from China, France and Hungary.

Meanwhile, Jean-Georges Steakhouse in Las Vegas' Aria Resort and Casino just underwent a renovation. The Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list was revamped to showcase cult producers from the Napa Valley, such as Colgin, Screaming Eagle, Opus One and Harlan. The physical renovation, which took about a month and a half to complete, most notably introduced a traveling tableside carving station, so guests can watch their meats get chopped before their eyes.—L.W.

Stephen Starr Shutters the Continental Miami

Courtesy of Stephen Starr Restaurants
The chain champions eclectic comfort food. Pictured: The Continental Atlantic City.

The Continental, the South Beach outpost of Stephen Starr's Philadelphia classic, closed July 23. The restaurateur told the Miami New Times that it came down to location issues that made it difficult to attract locals.

Starr owns dozens of restaurants across the country, three of which hold Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence. New York's Le Coucou earned the title for its French-focused list of 485 selections, and Le Diplomate in Washington, D.C., offers 350 selections with strengths in France and California.

In a culinary scene dominated by flashy presentation and an extravagant atmosphere, the Continental in Miami chose to focus on flavors, offering exciting takes on classics from around the globe. Menu staples included Philly cheesesteak egg rolls and Korean fried chicken.

Starr will continue operating his Best of Award of Excellence–winning restaurant Upland, located farther south in the South Beach neighborhood.—J.H.

Atelier Crenn Welcomes First Executive Chef

Chef Dominique Crenn, of the Best of Award of Excellence–winning Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, hired Jonny Black as the restaurant's first executive chef this past April. Since then, he's been busy at his new position.

"I have been focusing my attention at Petit Crenn, collaborating with chef Crenn on a new menu format in addition to training a new [chef de cuisine] to take over the day-to-day operations," Black told Wine Spectator via email. "We just got back from a trip to France a couple of weeks ago, getting a little inspiration for the upcoming Bar Crenn."

The hire marks a shift in Crenn's focus toward bringing her restaurants to the next level. Black's previous roles include executive sous chef at Pineapple and Pearls in Washington, D.C., and chef de cuisine at Quince in San Francisco, a Best of Award of Excellence winner. "I'm excited to have found a chef and a team whose values are so in line with my own. The style and focus of chef Crenn's cuisine fits with how I want to cook," Black said.

Atelier Crenn is known for its $325 multicourse tasting menu, as well as its 700-selection wine program, which boasts strengths in a variety of regions, from Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône to California, Italy, Austria and Germany.—V.S.

80 Thoreau Team Opens Mooncusser Fish House in Boston

The team behind Award of Excellence winner 80 Thoreau in Concord, Mass., opened Mooncusser Fish House in Boston at the end of last month.

While 80 Thoreau takes inspiration from local farms, Mooncusser will be all about the sea. "Now that the restaurant is open, I am both excited and anxious," co-owner Vincent Vela told Wine Spectator via email. "The Mooncusser project began just over two years ago and was a collaboration of efforts from [co-owner] Ian [Calhoun], [chef] Carolyn [Johnson] and myself. It was Ian who came up with the idea that we would open a seafood restaurant with the focus being New England–focused fine dining."

Chef Johnson helms the kitchen, offering a five-course tasting menu and à la carte options, with dishes such as a smoked bluefish pâté accompanied by peppers, cucumber and sesame crackers, and a whole grilled black bass with saffron, cherry tomatoes and chickpeas.

Vela and Calhoun created the wine program, which currently has 400 selections and focuses on whites from Burgundy, the Loire Valley and Italy. The by-the-glass list has 20 selections. "The wine program right now is a similar size to 80 Thoreau's, but we have built a cellar with a 5,000-bottle capacity so that we can grow over time," Calhoun said.

The restaurant will also debut the Moon Bar in mid-August, a casual seafood restaurant structured around a 30-seat triangle bar on the ground floor of the building (Mooncusser will be on the third floor). It will feature 30 wine selections ranging from Furmint and Favorita to Roussanne and Riesling. The Mooncusser wine list will also be available.—V.S.

Third Location for Denver's Pizza Republica

Colorado's Pizza Republica opened a third location in Glendale, a Denver suburb. Both the Greenwood Village and downtown Denver outposts have earned Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence for their exclusively Italian selections.

All Pizza Republica restaurants share the same wine list, which undergoes slight seasonal changes. "We really seek to find the best value for our guests, but more than that, the best example of the wine," wine director Daniel Christensen told Wine Spectator. "It's what's the best representation of how Italians drink and what we think our guests will really like." Most bottles are under $100.

Christensen says his diners love pairing southern Italian wines with their Neapolitan-style pies, like the duck-and-fig, and crisp pancetta pizzas. Guests also enjoy the occasional Nebbiolo, notably Barolo. When it comes to finding the right selection for guests, Christensen tends to favor producers he's built a personal relationship with during staff trips to Italy. The team built such a connection with Fattoria della Talosa, a producer in Tuscany, who now makes a house red for the restaurant. Christensen says cultivating these relationships is key to building his award-winning wine programs.—J.H.

The Palm Philadelphia Reopens

The longstanding Philadelphia location of the Palm, located inside the Bellevue hotel, reopened July 15 after undergoing major renovations. Known for the caricatures of Philadelphia icons that line the walls, the steak house earned an Award of Excellence for 21 consecutive years beginning in 1992. The Palm restaurant chain also has 21 other Restaurant Award–winning locations throughout the United States and Mexico.

Julie Millard serves as the Palm Bellevue's beverage manager, with Paul Sandler as general manager, who is formerly of the Palm Atlantic City. Wine and spirits director of operations for the group, Angelica Sbai, says the staff's pride in their many Restaurant Award winners helped shape the list for the Philadelphia location. "We made sure to tailor our wine program to meet those standards and expectations," Sbai told Wine Spectator via email.

The wine list for the reopened restaurant features bottles that are staples at all Palm outposts, as well as a variety of selections specific to Philadelphia's, many under $100. For big spenders (or "For the enthusiast," as the list calls it), the Palm Bellevue offers bottles from Napa Valley like the Opus One 2012 ($540) and the Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($318).—J.H.

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