This modest Italian-driven spot inherited the cellar from its previous incarnation, Niche, so the wine list is brief but always changing—and always with “limited availability” gems. Daily wine promotions and frequent wine dinners add to the fun.
From the Sommelier: “The next generation of winemakers is really interesting to me. People are going back to traditional ways of making wine with a new generation of winemakers. I’m interested in the young winemaker who’s taking traditional grapes and spinning it in a modern way.” —Bess Kretsinger Heffernan, Sardella
Dish We Loved: Ricotta-Taleggio gnocchi, roasted mushroom, hazelnut gremolata
Chef Ashley Shelton and General Manager Bess Kretsinger Heffernan
How would you describe the restaurant’s concept to someone who isn’t familiar with it?
Shelton: A basic rule in the kitchen is if we’re making a dish that doesn’t root back to Italian history in some way, we probably won’t make it. Or that the dish is 90 to 100% local to showcase what our farmers are growing. There are a lot of different cuisines in Italy, so there’s a lot to play with.
You don’t have a pages-long wine list, even though you have a lot of wine in your cellar. What was the thinking behind keeping it more focused?
Heffernan: Right now, our main list is 40 whites and reds, so 80 total—50-50 international and domestic… For me it’s [about] drawing the element of hospitality into a list. It can be daunting to have to look at a menu for a long time. Maybe you’re on a date and you want to have a conversation. It’s a happy medium—fun to look through, but not too much.
Ashley, I’ve heard you keep a very positive, fun atmosphere in the kitchen, and it seems to feed into the dining room. How do you create and maintain that?
Shelton: You won’t get anyone to work for you and care about your restaurant if you’re an ass to them. I take the opposite approach. We spend the majority of our time looking at and working together, and we need to find ways to have fun in this stressful environment. I believe angry cooks produce angry food.
Heffernan: It’s about keeping people happy and healthy and creating a supportive uplifting environment. It’s amazing what people can accomplish when you let them.
What’s one wine or drink you always have on hand at home?
Shelton: My drink would always be a gin and tonic with Uncle Val’s Gin. It’s so good and restorative.
Heffernan: There’s always a high-acid, mineral-driven white in my fridge. I’ve been all about the Reeve Riesling from Anderson Valley. —Ari Bendersky