Under deconstruction: Joey’s Italian Cafe

Wine list: 101. Graphic: Sam Riepe

There used to be only two reasons to go to Wynwood’s NW 2nd Ave. at night. Oone was to buy drugs, and the other was to sell drugs. Now, this formerly lonely stretch of the Avenue, in the low twenties, is home to a pretty well-attended Wynwood Art Walk every second Saturday. But I don’t think any of those people stay in Wynwood long enough to eat.

But all that is about to change. Joey Goldman has big plans. But, as they say, every long journey begins with the first step. And Joey’s Italian Cafe is that first step. His father, Tony Goldman, was instrumental in the renaissance of Miami’s South Beach and the development of NYC’s SoHo. But Joey has his own ideas. “This is Wynwood. It’s not Soho, it’s not Chelsea, although there are similar elements. Nothing changes overnight.” The very soothing interior of Joey’s does, however, remind one of a hip Soho boîte, with its polished concrete floors, muted greys and understated blacks and whites. “I grew up above the Soho Kitchen and Wine Bar [owned by dad Tony], where we served 100 wines by the glass. For Joey’s, I sat at a table full of wine, and tasted every bottle on the list. If I didn’t like it, it wasn’t on the list.” Sounds like an arduous task, so let’s examine the results of all of Goldman’s hard labor.

On the red side, all five Bordeaux first growths (best wines) are represented, because a lot of rich people are going to eat here, and that is what many of them prefer to drink. The 2003 Haut Brion is a mere $750, with the other four at $1,000. I, on the other hand, prefer to start with a glass of $9 Sardinian wine, the Cannonau Riserva from Sella & Mosca. Also available for a bargain $31/bottle, this Granache has incredible aromas of violets and is rich and plummy on the way down. It’s an Italian classic, usually retailing for about $13, and I like to mix in regional Italian wines with my Italian food. The chef, incidentally, is from Italy, and has a sure hand with the gorgeous brick oven. In fact, to go with the crunchy-crusted pizzas, I might even spring for the Modus, a Super Tuscan from Ruffino, which at $55 is fairly-priced, normally retailing for between $25-30, depending on the vintage. It’s a blend that goes well with mushrooms, steak or even cheeses — and has some tastes and aromas of all three in the glass. For a splurge, try the Tignanello, a Super Tuscan from Antinori, one of their best wines, and at $140/bottle, a small markup from the retail price of around $100. Mr. Antinori himself told me that he considers this wine “his baby”. With 23 or so generations of winemakers in his family going back several hundred years, I would trust this man with my own babies.

Did I mention the $33 bottle of Mionetto Prosecco (just $7/glass)? While certainly not an over-the-top bargain, usually retailing for about $10-15, this charming sparkler is a gracious start to a light meal and can be drunk, properly chilled, right on through to dessert. It is fairly light in alcohol, too, so it makes a perfect lunch bottle. Also in the “not red/not white” category, for you contrarians, is a terrific rosé, again from the Antinori family called Scalabrone. While it sounds like a curse word, and you must move your hands when you order it, it’s innocently refreshing yet solid. And while not really a super bargain at $45/bottle (retailing for about $18), it’s also a great way to start a meal at $12.50 a glass, and will help you, if you’re anything like me, to avoid having to drink any white wine at all. But with four whites under $30, you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

And thus ends the first installment of “The Wines of Wynwood.” Knowing Joey Goldman’s track record, I’m fairly certain it will not be the last.

Published: 12/08

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