When porchetta queen Sara Jenkins set up her East Village trattoria Porsena, her ambitions were modest: to conjure a simple workaday pasta joint just like the ones she encountered during her enviable childhood in Rome and Tuscany. Her spin-off wine bar next door, more like a casual mom-and-pop enoteca than a cool-kid vino spot, shares this humble attitude and personal approach. At Porsena Extra Bar, there is no encyclopedia-thick wine list full of self-consciously obscure offerings with eye-popping price tags. The trim 27-bottle selection—a collection of Jenkins’s personal favorites—is just as easy on the eyes as it is on the wallet, with an approachable selection of five reds and five whites by the glass, and the majority of bottles clocking in the $40–$50 range.
DRINK THIS: At this vino-focused annex, Jenkins has expanded on the Italian lineup at her flagship restaurant with a more diverse Mediterranean wine list. Lesser-known varietals from France and Spain dominate the menu, but Greece and Lebanon punctuate the offerings. On a recent visit, we were taken with a rich, acidic French white wine showcasing lip-smacking salinity—the 2011 Picpoul de Pinet from Château de Saint Martin de la Garrigue in Coteaux du Languedoc (glass $14, bottle $50). We were also intrigued with the offbeat 2010 Amazigh from Zniber Vineyards (glass $10, bottle $35), in Morocco’s northern region of Beni M’Tir, a spiced red blend with a pleasing barnyard whiff.
GOOD FOR: A refuge from downtown’s high-pitched sloshfest. The music is soft and conversation is kept to a merciful hum in this thin slip of a bar. Just 17 stools line a wood counter, decorated with tiles that depict a Roman cobblestone street.
THE CLINCHER: Given the owner’s restaurant chops, it’s no surprise that the small kitchen turns out next-level bar snacks. But we were still impressed with the understated elegance of the simple plates, slyly subverting the spot’s rustic appearance. Jenkins deconstructs the classic weeknight pasta sauce puttanesca into a stunning crudo dish: gorgeous, ruby-red slices of raw yellowfin tuna, dappled with briny kalamata olives, fresh parsley leaves, dabs of spicy tomato jam and bright green olive oil ($16). Another dish, manteca, upped the ante for bread and cheese, with crusty pieces of baguette accompanied by a wedge of salty caciocavallo cheese stuffed with Podolica butter ($10).—Mari Uyehara