This ’Inoteca (formerly, briefly, Bar Milano) is the uptown outpost of ’Ino, a tiny Italian sandwich bar in the West Village, and of ’Inoteca on the Lower East Side. It shares a genius for panini with its siblings, has the same outstanding olives ($7) and cured meats, and the same general din.  With the highest-priced dish tagged at $18, the crowds begin to make sense.

The menu of Eric Kleinman, the chef and a partner, is lengthy, divided into categories and almost entirely in Italian: a combination that drives the friendly staff around the bend over the course of the (long) evening. (The place is open until 3 a.m.)  By the time you’ve been instructed in how many pieces of bruschetta your group needs ($3 each, $19 for 9), translated all 12 toppings (best: fig mascarpone; worst: broccoli rabe), and evaluated the menu of spiedini (grilled skewers), you will be tempted to suck down the entire cocktail list.  But the drinks I tried were oversweetened, and the all-Italian wine list turned out to be a better source of solace.

Once the ordering ordeal is over, there are pleasures to be had. The fluffy polenta with chickpeas, tomato and pancetta ($15) was one of the best dishes I’ve had this year. Crusty meatballs ($12) came on a mountain of broccoli rabe cooked down with sweet tomatoes. Grilled chicken ($16) was juicy and lemony, and the chocolate pudding ($6) just barely held together, in the best possible way. Pastas are simple and well cooked, and as with the rest of the menu, there are many vegetarian options, like rigatoni with spicy cauliflower ($15) and spaghettini with ramps (the menu adjusts slightly to the seasons). A panino of fontina, spinach and mushrooms ($11) was the table’s favorite on all of my meals there.Too many plates rely on fat for flavor: nuts, olive oil, pork and cheese weigh down the menu, and there’s a separate list of fritti, deep-fried items ($8 to 18), that sound better than they are. Lighter dishes can be underseasoned.

The wine list typically has over 600 selections by the bottle and 25 by the glass or half carafe; representing every wine making region in Italy with page after page of older vintages and varietals not commonly found outside of Italy. 323

Contact:
Third Avenue (24th Street)
T: (212) 683-3035
E: inotecanyc.com

(Source: This review by By JULIA MOSKIN, Published: April 29, 2009 in the New York Times.)