We have been trying to get into Inoteca with a sizeable group for a while but they are usually all booked out for Saturdays (even when the foodie has called as early as Monday to get a table). Last Saturday we finally decided to turn up and wait it out. The hostess gave us a 2 hour wait (this is at 7:30pm!) for a table for five. Given our previous unsuccessful attempts, we were not to be deterred. They have a nice area near the bar to wait and sip wine, and that's what we did for a little over an hour, although between the wine, company and a great ambience, the wait didn't seem that long. Inoteca is a small place for its big reputation and cult-like following. The menu is all in Italian and not typical of any other Italian place we have gone too. Our waitress sensed that we were newbies there and was nice enough to patiently translate almost all of it.
Inoteca specializes in small plates and you have go there once to figure out how to order (as our waitress said, it is like kissing, gets better everytime!). We ordered Bruschette for our starter. We got 5 pieces all with different toppings and all were delectable. We especially recommend the ricotta fresca w/pomodoro and the noci toppings. The foodie ate the soppressata panini for the main course and it was the best panini she has ever tasted (and she doesn't usually like meat). The photographer took the truffled egg toast with bottarga which is a speciality of this place and we have mentioned before when we reviewed its sister restaurant Ino. We also got to taste polpi (octopus) and the day's special cod from our friends plates, but liked the panini and the egg toast the most. Ordering for dessert involved another class in Italian - the best one was a shot of expresso poured over vanilla gelato which according to our waitress is the most popular dessert in Italy. Brava!
We want to make a special mention of the service. Waiters were all very friendly and our waitress very patiently translated our menu for us and recommended dishes. She also recommended excellent wine when we told her our broad criteria (sweet, red, not too strong - tells you how much we know our wines!). We highly recommend you have wine (given its a wine bar first and foremost), and make that wine a Salice (sah-lee-chay). At $27 a bottle, it is also easy on your pocket for the quality.
Our total bill including gratuity (plus 2 bottles of wine) was a reasonable $37 per person. We can see why our friends who have been to Inoteca swear by it. We would definitely go there again.
'inoteca: 98 Rivington Street (at Ludlow)