Occupying a small, den-like space in Chinatown, Cantine Isola has an interior that’s more cozy than cramped, with a narrow bar along one wall and floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves packed tightly with wine bottles grouped according to region and country. Below most of the bottles are handwritten notes describing the contents’ origins and flavor profile. One has the sense that there’s a unique bottle of wine that perfectly suits each guest’s tastes and personality. Best of all, the barmen speak English and can guide you to that perfect glass or bottle based on your stated preferences (and no need to be a wine connoisseur—they will listen patiently as you fumble for words to describe the wines you like). Even though foreigners are welcomed with open arms, the crowd is an equal mix of regulars and visitors, more proof that this spot is the real deal.
Time Out tip: If the small selection of nibbles on offer at Cantine Isola doesn’t sate your hunger, pop across the street for steamed pork buns at takeout stand Ravioleria Sarpi. They make for a rather unexpected but tasty accompaniment to a bottle of vino.