Third base

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September 25, 2013
By: Carla Waldemar
Carla Waldemar

Overbuilt with wine bars, are we? Not on your life. Not, at least, at 50th & Penn, where the wait was 40 minutes on a quiet Wednesday. The arrival of Terzo, the third of the Broder Empire at this intersection, has been greeted by its neighbors with only slightly less ebullience than Prince George’s across the pond.

s it the admirably curated, all-Italian wine menu, 1,000 bottles strong? Or is it the primo pedigree of foodstuffs driving the list of snacks? Or the sunny, informed service, and the chance to chitchat with your neighbors at the closely packed (and molto noisy) tables?

Yes.

The format’s dead-simple: Present your guests with relatively straight, ungussied deli fare, which depends more on meticulous sourcing than the kitchen’s razzamatazz. Salume, for instance, range from three genres of prosciutto, sweet-sweet with their collars of pearly fat, to coppa and lardo, mortadella and more. Same with cheeses (for both, choose individually on order a board.) Our plate of mortadella took us by surprise. Instead of presentation in the usual slices, the pine nut-packed sausage arrived in cubes, which proved too much of a good thing per rich and fatty bite. Good bread on the side helps the palate-cleansing.

We kick-started the evening with a pair of lipstick-crimson Calabrian peppers, plumped with a mild and creamy goat cheese which flagged the heat of the spicy peppers, which in turn fanned the unctuous cheese, which … well, you get the idea. A simple but inspired combo ($5).

A quartet of bruschette ($2–$6) begs for your attention, too. The slice we chose was heaven on toast: an unseemly flavorful dice of truffle and crimini mushrooms. The aroma alone is worth the price of admission.

Skipping, regretfully, the seafood options ($10 for shrimp, octopus, etc.), we scanned the run-down of verdure ($6–$9), a bucket list that included almost-translucent bites of baby artichokes, kicked into perfection with mint and almonds. Next time: grilled asparagus and/or grilled radicchio with their inventive groupies.

Then there are the piatti ($12–$18), generous enough for two to four admirers to pick on. We dove for the vitello tonnato — the summertime combo of cold veal with tuna sauce, a classic that’s all but disappeared from modern menus. Worth the wait: ultra-thin, pinky-gray leaves of veal piped with the slightly granular emulsion that’s almost like a delicate tuna mayo, then garnished with the pick-me-up tang of caper berries, citrusy agrumato, and anchovy, delivering its slightly salty kiss. Well done, ragazzi! (Or choose sea bass with smoked clams; a pecorino flan; or lamb loin, which left the adjoining table babbling in tongues).

This is not the time nor place to skip dessert ($6–$10). They, light, they’re piquant, and, unlike those in a typical trattoria in Italy, they’re creative. Writhing with indecision, we finally plunked for the taleggio sformatini — a trio of tiny “lampshade” sponges tangy with lemon curd, floating on pipings of sweet-sour agrodolce caramel, along with toasted hazelnuts, then  elevated from simply wonderful to beyond- extraordinary by the herbal scent of thyme. Or pop for the chocolate trio. Or the braised pineapple with mango sorbetto; or the affogato, summertime in a cup — a dollop of vanilla gelato bobbing in espresso.

Hail, Broders: We who are about to eat salute you. Looks like you’ve got another hit on your hands.

>>> Terzo
2221 W. 50th St.
broders.com/terzo-vino-bar
No reservations taken