Restaurant & Wine Review: Da Felice in NYC

by Ian D’Agata

Bar Felice

1591 1st Avenue

New York, NY 10028

Tel. +1 212 2494080

A dinner at Da Felice in NYC with the wines of Masottina

The menu


CROSTINI (Bruschetta; Ricotta, spicy honey, almonds and figs;

Sauteed zucchini and burrata)

Arancini (Rice balls, tomato, mozzarella, oregano, served with arrabbiata sauce)          

ViaVenti Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Brut                                                                 

ViaVenti Prosecco DOC Treviso Rosé Brut                                                                 

Dinner Menu                                                                                              

Imported assorted cheeses (Tagliere di Formaggi )                                                                 

ViaVenti Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Brut                                                                 

ViaVenti Prosecco DOC Treviso Rosé Brut                                                  

Tuna tartare, avocado, carrots, fried capers, parsley, mint (Tartare di Tonno)                                                                                           

Masottina 2022 Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Rive Di Ogliano Brut Ponente

Fried calamari, baby artichokes, aioli (Fritto di Calamari e Carciofi)                                                            

Masottina 2022 Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Rive Di Ogliano Extra Dry Levante   

Plus a blind tasting of :

Masottina 2019 Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Rive Di Ogliano Extra Dry Levante

Linguine with clams, shrimps, wine reduction (Linguine Vongole e Gamberi)                                                                         

Ai Palazzi 2018 Colli di Conegliano Bianco Rizzardo                             

Tuscan beef stew served with creamy polenta (Peposo Con Polenta Cremosa)

Ai Palazzi 2017 Colli di Conegliano Rosso Montesco

Sorbetto al lampone con fragole fresche (Raspberry Sorbet with fresh strawberries)

The wines

Masottina NV Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Brut ViaVenti              90

Masottina NV Prosecco DOC Treviso Rosé Brut ViaVenti                88

Masottina 2022 Prosecco DOCG Superiore Rive di Ogliano Brut Ponente                 91

Masottina 2022 Prosecco DOCG Superiore Rive di Ogliano Extra Dry Levante       93

Masottina 2019 Prosecco DOCG Superiore Rive di Ogliano Extra Dry Levante       94

Ai Palazzi 2018 Colli di Conegliano Bianco Rizzardo        90

Ai Palazzi 2017 Colli di Conegliano Rosso Montesco         89

The Felice galaxy of dining spots was founded in 2007 with the opening of the first Felice location in NYC’s Upper East Side; wholly Italian-owned and mostly NY-based, the goal of the establishments is to recreate an authentic Tuscan dining neighbourhood experience. I say “mostly” NY-based given that the Felice restaurants can now be found not just in downtown NYC (seven locations), Brooklyn and Long Island, but in Florida too (in West Palm Beach).

Among the “not to be missed” dishes that characterize the Felice dining experience, just about anybody I have queried cite the Crostini Toscani (traditional bread tartine, chicken liver mousse, onion confit, crispy sage, imported salami from Italy), the Fusilli al Ferretto e Burrata (artisanal fresh fusilli, San Marzano tomato sauce, creamy burrata cheese, basil) and the Tonnarelli alla Carbonara (eggs, Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, crispy bacon). You can argue that the last of those dishes is neither in anyway Tuscan nor is it totally faithful to the original recipe (being a dish of Rome and Lazio, only Pecorino Romano is/should be contemplated, though many of those whom uphold the virtues of more modern versions of the dish understandably like the refinement and silkier nuance that adding a little Parmigiano Reggiano brings) but there’s no arguing with how good the dish is. Before you know it, the pasta will be gone, leaving you to look if there’s hole in your plate. The wines are also a serious matter at Felice: likeable and ultra-talented Christian Ferrulli is the Felice Corporate Wine Director and he sources a bunch of Italy’s best potables.

wine director Christian Ferrulli

I recently dined at the Bar Felice on 1st Avenue (where Ferrulli oversees about 160 different labels from all over Italy with a focus on Tuscany) in occasion of a Masottina wine dinner and had a really good time. Bar Felice is located next to Felice 83: when you enter, it will have you thinking it is “only” a cocktail and lounge bar, but there is a room off to the side that doubles as a “real” restaurant dining space and that can be rented out to groups for private functions too. So while the list of artisanal spirits and craft beers, paired with Tuscan-inspired bites, and the set of flat screen TVs that air European and American sporting events will no doubt make for a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening, serious dining (and drinking) is what I ended up enjoying on my night at Bar Felice.

On this night, the serious dining part of the equation was showcased by the standout linguine alle vongole, done to perfection and in fact one of the three nest renditions of this dish I have ever had in the States. The clams (vongole) actually tasted of something, not to mention the sea, the linguine were perfectly cooked, and the garlic and chili dosed just right. So well done. Also very good was the Tuscan beef stew served with creamy polenta, where both the main players on the dish (the stew and the polenta) were just perfect and very flavourful. The “serious drinking” part came in the form of the sparkling wines of Masottina, one of Italy’s best Prosecco producers: perhaps not an especially large winery, but it’s not exactly small either (you can call it the “biggest of the small”, if you like). Masottina makes excellent sparkling wines that speak very clearly of the Conegliano terroir (altogether different from that of Valdobbiadene; hence, the wines from the territories of each of these two towns are also different). Owned by the Dal Bianco family since1946, Masottina was launched when Epifanio Dal Bianco bought the Ai Palazzi estate in Gorgo al Monticano, about five hectares and a farmhouse that have since grown to the world-class reality that the estate is today.

The Masottina lineup of wines on the evening began with two wines of the ViaVenti line in the portfolio served as aperitifs and also to start the meal. These “viaventi” wines are named after Via XX Settembre, Conegliano’s main street in the historic part of town, called simply “via Venti” by the locals. The Masottina NV Prosecco Treviso Extra Brut ViaVenti is lovely, offering easygoing peachy fruit and fresh citrus nuances. Happily, it is not achingly drying despite its Extra Brut classification, and makes for a very good aperitif (the 3 g/l r.s. probably helps in this regard). Balance with these Extra bruit wines is everything, something many sparkling wine producers all over the world (Champagne included) seem to be forgetting: drinking is not about fads and fashions, but about pleasure. But it’s hard to find pleasure in something that is searingly dry to the point of bitterness and austerity for austerity’s sake. This very pretty, easy to like Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut from Masottina is very well balanced: it’s an 85% Glera and 15% Chardonnay blend made with grapes sourced from the single vineyard at Gorgo al Monticano and the wine spends three months on the lees.

I’m not the biggest fan of Prosecco Rosés, that I personally view as a bad idea and nothing more than a marketing gimmick (Pinot Noir? Really? With all the lightly coloured red-berried grapes Veneto boasts? Come on now…) but I will say that Masottina’s version is a good one. The Masottina NV Prosecco Rosé ViaVenti is a 90% Glera and 10% Pinot Nero blend, where the two grapes are vinified separately and assembled just before the prise de mousse. Not the last word in complexity, but nicely approachable and full of hints of red berry charm. A much more serious wine is the Masottina 2022 Prosecco DOCG Superiore Rive di Ogliano Brut RDO Ponente: quite the structured bubbly, it speaks very much of the clay soils of the Conegliano terroir. White flowers and a rising spicy note complement the slightly compressed bergamot, melon and peach aromas and flavours; and while this has about 4 g/L r.s., I couldn’t help think (at every sip) that it would have benefited from one or two grams more. The finish is just a little this side of drying and ultimately leaves an impression of charmlessness, which is shame, given how otherwise well-balanced, dense and complex this upscale Prosecco Superiore is. Still, those who like their bubblies bone dry will more than likely appreciate this much more than I, so my score may not be generous enough. There are no such quibbles with the standout Masottina 2022 Prosecco DOCG Superiore Rive di Ogliano Extra Dry RDO Levante, which is quite simply one of the best Prosecco wines you will find anywhere. Made with fifty years old vines facing east, this Prosecco is brimming with dense fruity-floral (quince, peach, wisteria, elderberry) aromas and flavours that are at once powerful and refined. Vibrant and fresh, it’s 13.5 g/L r.s make for a slightly rounded, mellow and immensely pleasing drink, one that is extremely well-balanced and that entices you to drink a glass right after the preceding one. Most importantly, the old ages of the vines is very evident in the texture, length and density this wine boasts in spades. Can Prosecco age? Yes it can, when it’s well made. Which is exactly the case of Masottina, as showcased by the splendid Masottina 2019 Prosecco DOCG Superiore Rive di Ogliano Extra Dry RDO Levante. More nuanced and less explosive than the 2022, with an even more mellow and rounded mouthfeel, this gorgeous bubbly exemplifies what an aged Prosecco Superiore wine is all about: acacia honey, bergamot jelly, white peach coulis, faded jasmine and buttercups, plus a hint of quince paste. Lovely stuff indeed: nobody will ever guess it’s a five year old wine, with more years of ripe old age ahead to spare.

Ai Palazzi is another line of wines made by Masottina, this time of the still kind. The Ai Palazzi 2018 Rizzardo Colli di Conegliano Bianco is usually a blend of four to five grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Manzoni Bianco); and while the exact percentages of each will vary from year to year depending on the growing season’s weather, usually it’s the Chardonnay, Manzoni Bianco and Pinot Bianco that make up about 90% of the blend. The wine is named after a fourteenth century Treviso warlord; but in spite of what that warlord reference might imply, it drinks freshly and clean rather than powerfully (and despite it being aged one year in barriques and steel tanks). Rizzardo makes an excellent aperitif but can easily stand up to fish dishes in sauce and even lightly-dressed white meat dishes. Similarly, the Masottina / Ai Palazzi 2017 Montesco Colli di Conegliano Rosso is also a blend of four grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Marzemino, the percentages of which change from year to year depending on the vintage’s growing season) that offers red fruit and herbal nuances and along crisp finish. A hint of welcome sweetness on the back end most likely derives from the lightly air-dried Marzemino (for about 2 weeks) that also adds flesh to the mouthfeel. Aged 24 months in Allier oak barrels and another 24 in bottle prior to going to sale, it is a wine that will greatly appeal to Bordeaux lovers.

And with that, all that is left for me to say is that a very nice evening of wine, food and friendship was brought much too soon a close.



Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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Ian D'Agata