Sara and I had dinner with friends from San Diego recently at Falai, a small, sleek Italian restaurant on the Lower East Side. The white marble interior makes a piquant contrast with the neighborhood’s brick tenements, just as the sophisticated menu does with the comfort food more common at nearby restaurants.
The short wine list follows the current trend of aggressive obscurity, but prices are low enough that a failed experiment doesn’t hurt too much. And since there’s such a natural affinity between Italian food and wine, the risks are low to begin with. For example, a Sicilian white, the Di Giovanna Grillo 2008 ($40) didn’t have a lot of depth, but its rough-hewn texture and briny, citrus flavors partnered beautifully with house-made marjoram-scented linguini with a tart lemon sauce, toasted pine nuts and ricotta salata ($17).
But we hit the jackpot on the red: a Petrolo Toscana Torrione 2006 (an excellent value at $70 on the list). This 100 percent Sangiovese stays true to Tuscany in its bright cherry flavors and fresh, balanced character, but showed more international influence in its polished tannins and toasty accents. I rated it 92 points, non-blind. It was terrific with light but gamy roasted rabbit (rack, loin, liver and even the heart, $26). Fine stemware and friendly, professional service completed an impressive experience.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Petrolo Toscana Torrione 2006 (92, $45).