98 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 614-0473

'inoteca, a trio of Italian wine bar/tapas places in downtown Manhattan, has a glowing rep. Customers can't stop raving about the place, Time Out has it as a Critics' Pick... and I keep walking past it seeing happy people enjoying themselves happily. Thusly do I report, with a heavy heart, that they just weren't that good... and I wanted to so badly to love the place. By the way, I apologize in advance for the lack of food pics. My camera battery died after grabbing the interiors.

I got there a bit before Speeds showed up, plunked myself by the window and started ordering wine while I waited. And here's the thing. I want, quite badly, to love 'inoteca. The atmosphere was perfect. The staff was great! I sat there and read and nursed my wine and coffee and read a book no one gave a crap. Until it started to crowd up at 7pm, it had a decidedly coffee bar atmosphere.

Unfortunately, the food and wine just weren't up to par with the ambiance. My first glass was so sweet that it was like thin syrup, Speeds' first glass was tainted and had to be replaced, and the rest of the wines were so earthy, they were like liquid peat. Maybe you're into that, but me, not so much. I don't normally order specials, but this time I did. It was Gnocci, which I find hard to resist. But this gnocchi was sorta mediocre. There wasn't much of it, was somewhat charred, and but for the spices it was coated in, flavorless. Speeds ordered the Grilled Calamari Salad, which was served with apples and celery and olives. The calamari was perfectly grilled, but the dish used so much vinegar that it overpowered all of the other flavors. Next up, a round of Bruschette: pesto, olive tapenade, and Gorgonzola with grape. Speeds liked the tapenade, but not the pesto. I liked the pesto, but not the tapenade. She really liked the Gorgonzola, but I was indifferent. Finally, we split a Prosciutto and Spicy Mayo Tramezzini, a small white-bread sandwich (no crust). The mayo was spicy, but that's about all the compliment I can dish out about it. It was boring and cost seven bucks.

Wine costs between $8 and $12 per glass, which is about standard, and the food ranges in price from $7 for a panini or a round of bruschette, to $16. But here's the thing. It's small plates. None of the dishes are large, so you have to order quite a few to get a real meal out of it. So it adds up quickly. Expect to spend $35-40 per person, but budget for more.

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