Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas

Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas
at The Gallery at Westbury Plaza
1002 Old Country Rd
Westbury NY 11590
(516) 228-5400
Official Site

The fare in most US malls mainly consist of the usual suspects of the food court, which is predominantly led by the essential food chains of the world. In Garden City, Long Island, The Gallery at Westbury Plaza mall offers shoppers a different take on mall food with a spunky restaurant called, Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas.

An offshoot of the Clifton NJ location, (which, oddly enough is also located in the mall), Spuntino opened in the ground floor of The Gallery at Westbury Plaza in 2014.  Occupying a large space, the restaurant has a bar area with communal tables in the middle, and a lengthy marble top bar that are often filled with locals. The industrial designed dining room has an open kitchen and walls of enclosed wine racks. It has semi-circle booth seats and plenty of uncovered tables to go along with metal dining chairs. Light bulbs hanging from the ceilings lit up the whole room.

Spuntino practices the “locavore” movement. Many of its ingredients come from the surrounding area of Long Island. The menu has a variety of choices at a very reasonable price.

A good way to start a meal here is having the bruschetta of SEARED TUNA -Topped with arugula, chili peppers, olives and lemon zest Bruschetta. Two pieces of grilled bread topped with superbly seared tuna bursting in spiciness and acidity. Another good starter is theInsalata” of BURRATA –Maple roasted butternut squash, garlic chili oil, balsamic glaze.

For pasta, the CASARECCE ALLA NORMA- Casarecce, Italian cherry tomato, grilled eggplant and smoked mozzarella was a joy to have.  Its sauce had a nice hint of sweetness and charred smokiness. The RISOTTO AI FUNGHI- Vialone nano rice, wild mushroom ragu, fontina and mascarpone cheese finished with rosemary and truffle oil had a rich consistency and a strong earthiness. Their LAMB CHOPS Gluten Free – Herb-marinated lamb chop was cooked in the simplest form and has beautiful herbal flavors.

Seafood dishes like the CALAMARI-Hand-cut, breaded to order, calamari served with house-made tomato sauce was fried to have a nice clean crispiness. OCTOPUS- Farro, olives, celery and cherry tomatoes with lemon vinaigrette and parsley oil were tender chunks of grilled octopus meat resting on top of bed of farro. Enhancing this dish was the citrus elements from lemon vinaigrette. SEARED SALMON – Roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine, fresh wild herb vinaigrette was nicely done. The salmon’s outer layer has a beautiful seared texture while having a sumptuous inner part. The dish was server with a sprig of sweet and sour that blended harmoniously with the salmon.

At Spuntino the kitchen emphasizes on taste that are both pleasant and satisfying. The cooking is simple and uncomplicated. To pair with the food is the restaurant vast’s wine list. Though the list is predominantly Italian they also offer wines from other countries, as well as from local Long Island wineries.

Spuntino is not your typical place to dine at a mall outside of New York City. It is a Manhattan quality restaurant that offers delicious food at a decent price with good wine in a relaxed environment. To have an enjoyable meal at Spuntino is almost a guarantee.



2016 Dining Recap


Having visited a handful of Michelin starred, World’s 50 Best and other top restaurants in Asia and Europe, 2016 was great dining year. My journey began at Hong Kong where I dined at Lung King Heen, the very first three Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in the world. Needless to say, it had an extremely high quality Cantonese food. The restaurants location on the fourth floor of the Four Season hotel boasts a panoramic view of Victoria Harbor. The two Michelin-starred Amber at Landmark Mandarin Oriental offers a terrific weekend wine lunch which consists of five courses paired with four glasses of wine. This was one of the best deals out there at 928 HKD for a restaurant at this caliber. Dinner at the L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the only of the L’Ateliers with three Michelin stars) was also quite superb.

I waited in queue for hours at Tim Ho Wan in Sham Shui Po, which at that time was the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world (until that distinction was awarded to Singapore’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken in the summer of last year). The dim sum was tasty and I enjoyed every single dish that I had. Frog legs and chicken congee at Tasty Congee & Wuntun Noodle Shop in the IFC was nothing short of delicious. Even better was the chicken and fish congee at the concierge recommended Sang Kee Congee Shop in Sheung Wan. 208 Ducento Otto serves up wonderful cocktails while Angel Share Whisky Bar & Restaurant and its expansive list of whisky is a must-visit for enthusiast while in Hong Kong.

That same journey through Asia led me to Tokyo, Japan. I had my very first meal in this sprawling metropolis at RyuGin, Chef Seiji Yamamoto’s flagship restaurant which has three Michelin stars and ranked number 31 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant. The modern kaiseki that it serves is a reflection of the agricultural bounty of Japan. With each dish skillfully prepared, this was one of the best meals I’ve had. In Ginza, the Omakase at the three Michelin-starred Sushi Yoshitake did not disappoint. The fish and other seafood used in every single piece of Nagiris were extremely fresh. Sushi might be star of the show at this restaurant, but the cooked dishes were equally sublime. It was highlighted by the abalone liver sauce mixed with sushi rice which was a mind-blowing dish that still resonates in my memory.

Hideki Ishikawa is Japan’s most decorated chef/restaurateur with three restaurants under his belt totaling eight Michelin stars. He also has the distinction shared by the likes of the Robuchon’s , the Keller’s and the Ducasse’s to have two restaurants at the same with the maximum rating from the Michelin guide. At his eponymous Ishikawa, I was served a wonderful contemporary style kaiseki that shows simplicity with plenty of subtle flavors. I also visited Kohaku the other three star restaurant of Chef Ishikawa, which is located in the same area and within walking distance from each other. The kitchen is under Koji Koizumi a disciple of Chef Ishikawa. There are many of similarities between them, but the two are distinctly different at the same time. Kohaku is a more modern prepared kaiseki that incorporate foreign ingredients, which are not usually use in Japanese cuisine.

Japan is surprisingly home to one of the finest French restaurant outside of France. Others can argue that it might better than its home country due to the high quality of ingredients it uses produced by Japan. Many of the top French chefs has an outpost sprinkled throughout country, but a large number of them are concentrated in Tokyo. I had a superb tasting menu at Chef Pierre Gaganaire, Two restaurant Peirre Gagnaire Au Tokyo on the 35floor of the ANA Intercontinental, which was awarded two Michelin stars. Each plate were carefully crafted, using only the finest local ingredients. As a bonus, guests enjoyed the scenic view of the whole city as the backdrop while dining. In Roppongi Hills, I dined at Chef of the Century Joel Robochon L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Along with Paris, the Tokyo branch is one of the first L’Ateliers. Having previously gone to the Hong Kong location, these two Michelin starred restaurant are a lot more casual, yet the quality of food is equally top-notched.

Inside the train station in Ginza, resides a minuscule ramen shop called Kagari Echika, which has garnered a lot of following. They served me tasty bowl of ramen, with a broth that has a certain delightful creaminess. In Shinjuku, high above the mall of the train station is Tenichi, where I had some delicate fried tempura accompanied with fresh sashimi. While at Sushi Mamire, I was served with affordable yet enjoyable pieces of sushi and rolls. Pagliaccio Due in Shiba, is an Italian restaurant that serves pleasant dishes like the Seafood Rissotto, and the spaghetti with fish. Night caps in the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, were made lively with tunes from a funky jazz show. Soon after I feasted with the hotel famous weekend brunch. Finally, visiting Japan is not complete without trying the world famous Kobe beef. At Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511, I had a magical experience without breaking the bank. The beef was as good as advertised, and every bite was heavenly like cotton candy that melts in the mouth.

From Izakaya’s, to noodle shops, to high end kaiseki, sushi (as well as low end), and to fine French restaurants, I had the greatest time dining in Tokyo. The uncompromising use of quality ingredients in this city restaurant makes Tokyo the gastronomic capital of the world. The two weeks I spent there was simply not enough.

The next stop in my search and passion for fine dining was a short trip to Basel, Switzerland. I had the opportunity to dine at the three Michelin star, Cheval Blanc. The restaurant is located in one of Europe’s oldest hotel Le Trois Rois. Bavarian chef Pete Knogl, is in charge of the kitchen and under his leadership Cheval Blanc was elevated to culinary stardom. The tasting menu has global influences and shows the precision cooking technique of Chef Knogl. Each dish was light and has a fantastic complex combination of flavors and textures.

I couldn’t end 2016 without grazing the home front for some great eats. After all, no one can beat New York City in anything, (at least to a New Yorker that is). I had very good meals at the Upper East Side’s, The NUAA. This beautifully decorated restaurant serves refined Thai fare that’s geared towards the Western palate. Last year, I saw an onslaught of new eateries opening up in the Financial District improving the neighborhood’s restaurants scene. Among them is Eataly Downtown which opened to the public last summer. Much smaller than its older siblings in the Flatiron, this mega food market brought a slew of dining options that includes another outlet of the seafood haven, Il Pesce. The restaurant offers appetizing sustainable seafood prepared in the simplest form. As the last stop of my 2016 journey, West Village Carma Asian Tapas, served an unmatchable creative Far Eastern fare in small plate format. I enjoyed the way the kitchen recreated classic Chinese dishes, as well as using other Western ingredients that aren’t usually found in Asian cooking.

Though 2016 didn’t boast much of my hometown’s variety of eateries, it was a star studded year of dining in the international level. Overall, I would say it was great and successful year of eating. I’m looking forward to an even better 2017 where I plan to focus on New York City, its outer boroughs and state side. Hopefully, I can sprinkle few international trips here and there.



42 Rivington St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 254-1675
Official Site

In a city like New York, choosing a wine bar can be quite the challenge, when there is an overwhelming array and number to choose from—a problem that most major city on earth wish they had. There are numerous wine bars in every neighborhood in this city. The Lower East Side alone boasts quite a few. In this area I’m a big fan of Jadis, a French wine on Rivington St.

The atmosphere in Jadis is cozy and relaxed, which definitely are attributes of a fine wine bar. The lounge area in the back is downright inviting with its comfy dark leather sofas and matching ottoman chairs. It is a wonderful place to unwind with a group of friends.

The rustic interior of Jadis is designed with exposed brick walls and ceilings. There are cabinets that display bottle of wines and shelves with classic novels. The dimly lit space comes alive with the dramatic flames of the candle lights on the top of each table. Soft music fills the air and sets the tone in the background for a romantic setting. The setting is so romantic that at any night of the week, you may find a couple or two occupying one of the dark two top tables, or can be seen sitting by the reflex angled bar in the front area.

It’s not only the setting and the atmosphere that makes Jadis a pleasant place, their food and wines solidify its integrity as a good wine bar in the city. You can’t possibly go wrong with good food and wine at a reasonable price. The wines by the glass cost between $6 to $9 and the most expensive item on the food menu is no more than $19.




The wine list is not overbearing and predominantly French; there are a few from Napa Valley, Germany and South America. Most of the wines are available by the glass, except for the bottles that exceed $45. Bottles of wine are economically price and won’t break the bank.

The menu at Jadis is simple and made to compliment the wine. Due to absences of a kitchen at this place, each dish are premade and prepared behind the bar. I can understand that it can be a turn off for first timers like I was. But when I finally succumbed to trying their food, I was impressed.

Starters like Beef Empanadas, Mushroom Truffle Risotto Puffs and Mini Quiches are tasty finger foods. The escargot on the hand has a buttery flavor. The snails are served without the shell, and have a nice soft and slippery texture.



Other dishes to my liking were the Duck Liver Mouse and the Duck Rillettes. The rillettes duck meat was tender and fatty. The duck liver mouse is thick and creamy. I also had the Venison Terrine. It was interesting since this was the first time I ever had venison. It has a very distinct gamier flavor. All three dishes are better eaten if used with the spread to the bread that it came with.

There’s also the very rich opened face sandwich called Tartine Champetre. The bread is drenched with cream, gruyere and sautéed mushroom. The Quiche Poulet made with tomatoes, chicken and manchego cheese is a buffet of goodness. It just might be the lightest dish I had in Jadis other than the starter plates.



I would never expect that this wine bar would have one of the best Crème Brulee I’ve had so far in this city. I never bother to try their other deserts because of this and I’m pretty sure that I will not be disappointed if I did. But for now, my favorite part of this dessert is the perfectly torched crust and the watery but firm inside of the Crème Brulee.

The owners of Jadis are present every night to assure the quality of service the patrons are receiving is up to par. The staff is knowledgeable with their wines and will even provide recommendation for wine pairing with their food.

Jadis might not have the wine list that your typical wine snob would prefer or the food that will blow diners away, but it does have good food and wine at a reasonable price. So, whether you are on a date or just unwinding after a long day of work, this unpretentious wine bar will make sure that you have a wonderful time.

Aria Wine Bar

Aria Wine Bar
117 Perry St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 242-4233

Tapas or small plates have been a staple of Spanish cuisine for ages. I consider this concept an ala carte version of the tasting menu. It is an excellent way to experience multiple dishes a restaurant has to offer without being committed to an entrée that may be lack luster. In New York City, Spanish restaurants are not the only ones who specialize in this concept. In the case of Aria Wine Bar, it has perfected the small plate offering in Italian style.

I know what you’re thinking… wine bar… soft relaxing music… sipping a glass of wine… maybe nibbling on a Panini… WRONG! Aria Wine Bar is far from your typical wine bar. It is loud… it is cramped! You are literally elbow to elbow with strangers and you are enjoying your food and wine right next to the bartender as he mixes cocktails. You are so close to your neighbors that in addition to your own conversation don’t be surprised if you also hear from one ear the angst of a young adult struggling for independence from overbearing parents and out of the other ear band mates planning their next session. Aria Wine Bar is always packed with beautiful West Villagers on a nightly basis. It nixed the loungey piano music for hip hop and pop music. This is truly an enjoyable atmosphere.

The wine bar is a replica of a cellar in a 19th century home. There are wooden beams that run from end to end of the ceiling, exposed brick walls and worn out wooden flooring for a rustic, chic interior. A wooden communal table next to steel pylon in the middle and a white tiled bar where people can sit in front of each other are paired with industrial metal high chairs. Hanging cured meats and wine bottles that are neatly placed behind each other are visible throughout the place. There is also a weathered wood counter that runs along the windows where diners can choose to sit and do some people watching along Perry Street.

The menu is affordable and extensive. It also includes a selection of cheese plates and cured meats that are available throughout the day staring at 12 PM daily. There are no dishes that are priced over $12 which is a bargain by New York City standards, especially for the quality of the ingredients that are used.

The non-encyclopedic wine lists at this place are mainly consisting of Italian wines with a few from other parts of the globe. The wines are served in an unorthodox style: stem less wine glasses that are priced at an average of $8 per serving. The last time I had this was at Macao Trading Co. in TriBeCa a few years back.

I love going to Aria Wine Bar and trying multiple combinations of small plates so that each experience there is unique. Starting off with Aragosta e Avocado, lobster salad with avocado and arugula. In this multiple protein dish, the lobster was tender while the avocado gave a nice flavor combination. The Insalata De Mare or seafood salad was a pescetarian delight. The plate was packed with fresh sea foods that were perfectly combined. It was so fresh that I had to peak into the kitchen to see if there was an aquarium of edible sea creatures in it!

Pasta plates like The Linguine Vongole or linguine with clams was delicious. The clams were soaked in the sauce which added a sea food taste with a bit of citrus zest. Both the Macheronni al Tartufo or mac and cheese with truffle Carpaccio and the Fettuccini Ai Fungi, fettuccini with wild mushroom and truffle oil, has an earthy flavor that the truffles give to both dishes. Then there is the Raviolli Ricotta, ravioli with ricotta cheese, spinach and asparagus along with creamy sauce was very good as well and the cheese had a nice thick texture.

Next there are the small plates that are very good, like the Vongole a Originate, baked clams with oregano and lemon sauce and the Tortino di Granchio e Funghi or crab cake with mushroom. The crab cake is moist in texture while the citrus infused baked clam sauce was acidic and complimented the baked clams and its stuffing. The Calamari in Umido was another enjoyable dish as well as the Polpette al Pomodoro, meatballs and the Carciofi e Olive, sautéed artichokes and olives.

The non existence of chicken dish in the wine bar is not a deal breaker, but it would have been a nice option in the already outstanding menu. The seafood and pasta dishes more than make up for this loss.

Aria Wine Bar is a quaint and essential New York City food and drink establishment. It has the downtown atmosphere, West Village crowd and great food and drinks. Every person that I brought here agreed on one thing, they all liked this place and vowed to come back.

I was once asked for recommendation for a nice restaurant with reasonable price, tasty food, nice vibe and non-encyclopedia wine list. I answered without hesitation, Aria Wine Bar in the West Village.

est 1986 Wine Bar and Lounge

est. 1986 Wine Bar and Lounge
@ Hotel Stanford
43 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001
(212) 563-1500
Official Site

On 32nd St, between Broadway and 5th avenue, also known as “Little Korean Way”, is the Hotel Stanford. During the hours of 6pm-2am the hotel opens its doors to everyone for their lounge, est. 1986 Wine Bar and Lounge. This little gem seems out of place, yet it is the perfect spot in an area where you would least expect it to be.

As you walk into the lobby of the hotel you can see the foldout sign with brightly colored chalked writing with the lounges happy hour specials and hours of service written in brightly colored chalk. Continue further inside the hotel until you reach a small set of stairs on the right of the elevator and up the narrow staircase into what is an impressively styled space.

est. 1986 Wine Bar and Lounge is dimly lit. Dark wood bookcases decorate the far right wall as they embrace sleek metallic silver leather sofas and sitting chairs. Matching dark square wooden side and coffee tables accent the sitting area. A communal table is centered in the bar surrounded by high-back cushioned dining chairs and three round laced chandeliers of different sizes hanging above it. To add to the space and decor is a Grand piano near the bar itself on the left. You would think the lounge would be lacking in space to fit anything, but this place is roomy and spacious enough to hold its regulars as well as groups. The wine bar gives an intimate and sophisticated feel with its dim lighting and minimalism, yet it is contemporary enough to keep the atmosphere casual and humorous by placing pictorial drawings with witty sayings along the right side of wall.

Although wine is what est. 1986 Wine Bar and Lounge is best for when coming here—their wine list consists mostly of French wines such as the Malbec and Pinot Noir which you can buy by the glass or bottle—they also serve cocktails and beers, as well as the prerequisite cheese and meat tapas, East-Asian inspired plates, and desserts. A glass of wine runs at an average of $12 but a happy hour special daily from 6PM to 8PM cuts the prices in half. Being a white wine drinker I enjoyed the Château St. Jean Fume Blanc. It has a fruity and acidic taste that is very similar to a Sauvignon Blanc.

On the several occasions that I’ve had the opportunity to visit the lounge, it has never been overly crowded. The noise level is at a minimal and the music is not overpowering throughout the space, allowing patrons to have an intimate conversation. Because of its location, est. 1986 Wine Bar and Lounge attracts mostly the after work crowd that empties out after 7PM to catch their scheduled train at either The Path or Penn Station. It’s a great place to meet up with friends and family for a nice relaxing glass of wine.

Hidden wine bars and lounges are no stranger to New York City as there are quite a few of them and more that I haven’t yet discovered. In the case of est. 1986 Wine Bar and Lounge it was recommend by a friend and I have since enjoyed coming here.

bahr | che

bahr | che
26 Astor Pl
(between Broadway & Lafayette St)
Manhattan, NY 10003
(212) 260-2220

The wine bar bahr|che, located in the St Marks/ Cooper Square area may be a bit hard to find but once discovered it’s a nice change of pace from the typical area bars with dollar shots and packed with NYU college students. To avoid spending hours on the search, be sure to find bahr|che on the ground floor of the Gwathmey Siegel building, behind the Chase Bank.

Bahr|che is small, “L” shaped with high ceilings and a modern interior design by Richard Bloch (Bloch is also responsible for such notable NYC restaurants as Masa, Bar Masa and Dovetail to name few.) The walls are covered with square shaped light maple wood panels arranged on top of each other in awkward angles resulting with some wood pieces artfully sticking out. The dark colored bar has an array of wines perfectly arranged on shelves that reach the ceiling. Toward bahr|che’s rear is a brighter section with a view of the street. The area is complete with red semi-circular booths and round tables.



This wine bar also specializes in cheeses and charcuterie but still serves good food for lunch and dinner and weekend brunch. The portions are very small and will leave you yearning for more.On my first visit to bahr|che I had the three cheese selection: Latur from Piemonte, Italy – made from cow, sheep and goat milk; Tomme Crayeuse from the Rhone Alpes of France – made from cow milk; and Cabot Clothbound from Greensboro, Vermont. I’m normally not a goat cheese lover, but the Latur was very good it did not have the particular goat cheese smell/taste that I find unpleasant. The cheeses complimented the fruity taste of the Riesling Spatlese wine that I ordered. I also had their Lobster Mac and Cheese which was also very good. Although the food was very tasty, the wine selection is the highlight of this place. With over 1,500 to choose from there’s always something new to try. Their wines from every region of the globe are available either by carafe or bottle at reasonable New York City prices.



The atmosphere at this place is subdued and very relaxed, a great way to unwind after work or end of the day. At night it’s romantic and intimate with soft music, dim lights and candles on the table.

Over all bahr|che is a pretty solid place, a great selection of wines, great food and a comfortable atmosphere. After my first visit, I was sold on this place and kept on coming back for drinks. It’s great to start or end the evening for a pre or post dinner drinks. Whenever you’re in the area and just want to relax and enjoy a glass of wine, make sure to visit bhar|che and don’t forget your GPS, you might need it to find it.

Vino Vino Wine Bar

*This venue is now closed.

I’m always looking to do something on a Sunday evening to ease my dreariness knowing that the weekend is over and its back to the grind.  When I came across Vino Vino winebar in TriBeCa, I found what I was seeking.

Vino Vino is part wine store (Maslow 6) and part wine bar with one main entrance for both. The place is narrow and long with an exposed red brick wall and a glass partition at the center which separates the store from the lounge. At the end of the lounge is a bar that is hidden from the main entrance.  The comfortable brown couches and stools and the lit candles on the tables gives Vino Vino a nice intimate and relaxing feel.

The wine list is impressive, 30+ plus wines are available by the glass. The food is also good, small tasty bites that complement the wine. What I love most is that it has one of the best deals in NYC; half off on all bottles of wine all day Sunday and Monday and half off from 5PM-7PM the rest of the week. On my last visit, my friends and I enjoyed two bottles of Les Saveurs white wine for a mere $30 bucks!!! That is unbelievable in NYC.

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I’ve been here on a few occasions (mostly on a Sunday night) and my experience has always been pleasant. The service is always good and consistent. Its nice quiet atmosphere allows you the pleasure of enjoying your wine while having a conversation in soft tones, rather than yelling above noise. The funky music playing in the background adds to the cool atmosphere, it does not overpower your conversations or your solo chill time.  This is an excellent place to unwind after a long days work or just to meet up with friends.

The great wine list, cool décor, relaxing atmosphere and amazing deal makes Vino Vino a treasure possessed by TriBeCan’s and envied by the rest of us. This place is officially my number one Sunday night spot.

Vino Vino Wine Bar
211 W Broadway
New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-8510
Official Site