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Anfora: dell’anima’s Chic-er and Sleeker Sister

Even with all the bars and restaurants in New York, it’s often difficult to find a sophisticated hybrid of the two genres, where you can enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail with bites to eat in an informal environment. Anfora, the sister restaurant to West Village favorite dell’anima, is the type of bar/restaurant you want to go to on a first date, with enough buzz and hip factor to impress and enough legitimately good food and drink to make the high prices worthwhile.

Just a few doors down from dell’anima where 8th Avenue transforms into the infinitely more charming Hudson Avenue, Anfora is, in one word, sleek. The dark and slinky room is more lounge-y than most wine bars, with several low-lying couches and what I think of as ‘kiddie stools’ for people to perch on. The look is simple – exposed brick, fresh white walls, luxurious Earth tones, verdant plants here and there. No frou-frou decor to be found here. Though the rich leather couches may beckon after a long-day, the best seats are at the bar. Sitting at the bar, not only do you get to interact with the competent, knowledgeable, warm and exceedingly welcoming bartenders, but you also get much faster drink and food service.

Speaking of drink and food, Anfora is, in the first instance, a wine bar. And a very good one at that. I won’t pretend to know left from right about wine; however, the selection of both wines by the bottle and wines by the glass is vast and diverse. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Anfora though (or perhaps not so surprising if you’re a fan of dell’anima, which I was resoundingly not) is how wonderful the food generally is. The menu offers Italian-inspired small plates, charcuterie, cheese, and panini. The grilled cheese, made with gruyere, cheddar and onions, is thin, not greasy, and pleasingly cheesy; in fact, it’s better than that offered at Melt Shop, a Midtown East stand devoted entirely to grilled cheese sandwiches, and at the ‘cheese bar’ Casellula. The lamb ragu sliders are just plain ridiculous; served on a ciabatta roll with nutty and sharp pecorino, these little ‘burgers’ pack an incredibly flavorful punch.

The crostini are mostly delicious – the spicy chorizo with avocado, lime, chili and mint was my favorite. The flavor combination was surprising and unusual – not your average crostini! The ricotta crostini is also great, probably because it’s virtually impossible to make fluffy ricotta with sea salt taste bad. The tuna salad and curry egg salad crostini were both decent, if you like tuna and egg salad, but by no means a ‘must-order.’ Lastly, the chickpea romesco option is wonderful, nutty with chopped almonds and rich parmesan, zesty with piquillo peppers. Though the menu is limited, it’s well ‘curated’ and developed; the dishes offered don’t mess around flavor-wise and are the ideal small bites to complement your glass of Chianti or whatever was recommended that evening.

Anfora is a charming place – a snazzy West Village wine bar that’s not too cutesy on the one hand and not too trendy on the other. Although it can get busy on Thursday and Friday nights, the helpful staff does their best to find room for you and more often than not, waiting for 15 minutes yields a few seats here and there. The food is almost universally good – the type of yummy Italian that pairs wonderfully with wine – and the drinks are, of course, great. Just watch out – a few cocktails with a couple glasses of wine and some victuals here and there can add up quickly – Anfora is certainly not cheap!

Perfect For: first dates, oenophiles, after-work drinks

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