Touch and Go

The 21st-century wine list makes its mark at Manhattan’s SD26.


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It’s safe to say that Tony May is an old school restaurateur. For 20 years, his San Domenico restaurant in midtown Manhattan was a landmark featuring contemporary yet authentic Italian food. But when he and his daughter, Marisa, moved their restaurant downtown to East 26th Street in 2009, it was transformed into SD26, a sleek, modern dining experience. It retains the commitment to great cuisine, via Chef Matteo Bergamini (formerly of Daniel) and it even picked up a few old school touches, such as salumeria and formaggeria stations, which Tony had always wanted. Otherwise it was transformed into an energetic, modern dining experience, from its Enomatic wine dispensers to its minimalist design punctuated by fabric sculptures.

But perhaps nothing testifies to the May family’s modernity more than this: SD26 was the first restaurant to use the SmartCellar device by Incentient, LLC to replace the traditional wine list. The digital, touch-control pad has since been adopted for wine programs by Todd English, Wolfgang Puck, Gordon Ramsey and many others.

Incentient creates the software and each restaurant’s wine staff writes the text. SD26’s wine list is 1,000 bottles strong; there is an entry for every one, with tasting notes and a label. The customer touch-taps through menus, selecting by broad type (sparkling, white, red, bottles and by the glass) and then by variety or region.

A selected wine may offer more information on the region, including a map, appellation, grape variety and producer. Currently, the SD26 device contains supplemental text on 553 producers, 210 appellations, 123 varieties and more. Going digital is an ongoing process. The software helps update the data when bottles are added or fall off the list. And someday the device will contain images and videos, such as interviews with winemakers and cellar tours.

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