Luigi and Lindita Iasilli at their new wine bar, In Vino, located in the East Village
Luigi Iasilli likes challenges. The owner of new the East Village wine bar In Vino, is building on the reputation he made with his nearby southern Italian restaurant, Max (51 Avenue B, bet E. 3th & 4th Sts.)
Born in Potenza, Italy in the remote southern region of Basilicata, Iasilli says that, I always considered myself entrepreneurial, always experimenting. I never did things the easy way. To get out of my hometown something had to happen.
For Iasilli, it was coming to New York about ten years ago. I think I was in New York before when I was in Italy; that was my state of mind. Then, for three years, he learned the restaurant business on Marguerite island in the Carribean. It was too unstable so I went back to Italy to work. Four years ago, he came back to New York opening Max.
Max is real authentic southern Italian cooking. Eighty per cent of our dishes are pasta with meat sauce, lamb ragu and beef and pork ragus, Iasilli says. Along the way he met his wife, Lindita, and they saw that they were both, Good at PR. Max was an immediate hit, a nice package of the right food and prices.
From his experience at Max, Iasilli intuitively sensed that customers were ready for a rustic wine bar featuring almost 400 wines from only the southern regions of Italy.
At In Vino, we didnt want to duplicate Max. We have cold and hot plates, easy things without pretension that work with wine, he says.
Iasillis home region, where vineyards date back 2,000 years to Greek colonization, is the land of one of Italys finest varietal wine, the robust red Aglianico del Vulture. Aglianico is making great strides to approach the status of Amarone, Barolo and Brunello as one of Italys finest red wines. Of the almost 30 Aglianicos on his list, Iasilli pours out a Sasso, Eubea 99 as one of his favorites, and One of the best values we have, Iasilli says.
Here we serve two thirds wine and one third food, the opposite of Max; we dont want this place to become a restaurant, Iasilli says. The menu is arranged in five easy categories: Crostini ($5), with toppings such as tomato and truffle; Gratinati ($7), gratin baked in terracotta with ingredients like fennel, endive and gorgonzola; Cold Cuts ($9-$17), beef bresaola, mortadella and pork soppersata; combination Cheeses platters, large ($17), and small ($9); and Antipasti in earthenware terrines ($13).
In Vinos food, while intended as a complement to the wine, is very good on its own. We use extra virgin olive oil, Bufala mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, Iasilli points out. The quality ingredients, the bedrock of excellent Italian cooking, shine through.
The five items on the large wooden cheese platter are superior and interesting: caciocavallo, boschetto with truffles, and an aged pecorino with black pepper.
The Antipasti dishes are as far as the menu goes, but in many ways they provide plenty of food options. The meatballs in ragu, shows that Iasilli knows how to make a delicious tomato sauce. Carciofini al Giudea and sauteed scallops are good snacks while sipping wine. Polenta and sweet sausages and rice croquettes filled with saffron risotto and sweet peas are examples of southern Italian home cooking, substantial and satisfying.
Essentially, In Vino is said Iasilli, A place for wine lovers, with almost 400 bottles of wines including a selection from each region by the glass. There are a few sparkling wines, such as a satisfying Millesimato from the Abrizzo region, and over a dozen dessert wines that pair with the fig or choccolate logs that Iasilli serves for dessert.
Iasilli and his wife met when they were working in a New York restaurant. They found that they had a mutual talent for dealing with customers. Iasilli says, You have to be a physcologist. When you see a customer, you can tell by talking with them, most of the time what they like and dont like. You dont sell food and beverage, you sell yourself. When you come to this place it tells you about me.