Consider the Italian tradition of the long, wine-fueled, multicoursed lunch. For centuries, Italians have participated and returned to work without being sloshed. How do they do it? The only explanation is the magical alcohol-absorbing properties of Italian food. If this were Italy, you could put these properties to use at noon. But this is America, so you go to Disotto Enoteca at night instead. Italians eat a little lighter in the evening, and Disotto follows suit with small plates like anchovy-ricotta-tomato bruschetta ($8) ➊ and squares of egg-enclosed toast, rich with truffle oil ($9). And since you skipped wine at lunch, and this bar, under Francesca’s on Chestnut, is really a wine cellar, a bottle or two off the 100-strong list wouldn’t be out of line.
No, you don’t have to drink wine. At Three Aces, where chef Matt Troost puts out food that ranges from popcorn with housemade hot sauce ($2) ➋ and thin pizzas ($10–$12) to giant, made-for-two bowls of the Tuscan stew ribollita, his version topped with milk-braised pork ($24), the bartenders have a certain…aesthetic. They look as if they’d rather be punching you in an alley than getting your drink order. But ask for a cocktail, and they put together serious tipples like the Debaser ($9), made of Small’s gin, Campari, lemon, orange bitters and the smile of a tough bartender. Gentle giants, those guys.
And on those days when neither wine nor a cocktail will do? There’s a bar called Tripoli Tap, owned in part by Italian chef Dean Zanella, and trust—this is a very basic, kind of divey beer joint. A very basic, kind of divey beer joint with unexpectedly good food, like a greasy (in a good way), spicy sausage-and-peppers sandwich ($7) ➌. More Italian-American than Italian, really. Know how you can tell? It doesn’t matter what time you eat this thing—you will soon need a nap.
➊ 2009 Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi ($12), a lively white quaff from Italy
➋ Mother’s Ruin ($9), gin, lime juice, basil and bitters
➌ Stella Artois ($5, on tap), crisp enough to cut through greasy foods