“Fast eats done furiously well” – A Review of Bar Veloce
BY ELENA MANCINI
175 Second Ave., East Village
17 Cleveland Pl., Soho
For a bar called “fast,” (“veloce” is Italian for “quick”), Bar Veloce in Chelsea delivers swiftness in all the ways that are desirable in a gastro wine bar. The fast factor is mainly derived from the fact that the menu items that are rapidly prepared and can be almost just as rapidly consumed. The menu is largely comprised of Italian antipasti specialties including bruschette, tramezzini, cheese and salumi and a varied assortment of panini. Bruschette and tramezzini range between $3-$9; panini are priced between $8 – $10. The wine list is long and exclusively Italian and is representative of the country’s northern and southern regions. The “by the glass” selection is generous and the wine list provides clear and to the point descriptions of each wine. Wine by the glass prices range between $7 – $14.
The decor is rustic, warm and straightforward. The bar area features an exposed brick backdrop with rows of wine bottles arranged parallel to the ceiling that give the illusion that they are floating. In contrast to the vibe of some other establishments in the neighborhood that seem to cater mostly to chasers of vacuous trends and hipster validation seekers, there is nothing obnoxiously self-conscious or even gimmicky about the decor or the vibe here. There is seating at the bar–an area that can accommodate approx. 15 people– and bar style tables with high stools surrounding the perimeter of the space. Prices are moderate and service is courteous and not rushed.
Most recently, I enjoyed a glass of Ciro Bianco from Calabria ($8). It was dry with delicate fruit flavors and had notes of quince and cedar. The bar tender gave an elegant and generous pour and served the wine at an appropriately cold temperature.
To eat, my friend and I had light appetites and therefore decided to share some bruschette and a panino. We ordered the olive pate and prosciutto and fig bruschette and an eggplant panino.
Each bruschetta order was served in pairs. Both were set on long slices of crunchy, cracker-thin focaccia bread. The olive pate was generously topped and came with the surprise ingredient of whole chick peas. This may have been a mix up with our order, but since my friend and I are both fans of chick peas, it did not pose any problems for us, and I appreciated the added protein. The olive oil that was used as condiment for the chick peas was slightly pungent and of premium quality. The only reproachable thing about this presentation was that it was doused a bit too freely over the bruschetta.
The prosciutto fig tartare bruschetta consisted of a generous amount of lean, tender thinly sliced prosciutto parma with a hint of rosemary on a bed thin slices of, sugary, meaty figs. It was topped with a delicate layer of white truffle oil and cracked pine nuts.
The eggplant panino was exceptional. It was structured on thin focaccia bread and filled with tender, seedless chunks of sauteed eggplant, marinated anchovies and mint and caper pesto. The fillings harmonized beautifully and were obviously fresh. The panino was served hot, without the greasy exterior that often characterizes pressed panini by lesser paninoteche. The bread had an appropriate thickness that allowed it to retain its character and bring out the flavors of the filling.
Bar Veloce’s price accessibility, unpretentiousness and its emphasis on quality are the keys to its appeal. While these are virtues that seem to defy the standards set by many a restaurant impresarios in NYC, Bar Veloce, owner Frederick Twomey, who in recent years has accrued a mini-restaurant empire that includes Bar Carrera, Pizzeria Veloce and Ristorante Veloce in Las Vegas seems to be successfully countering these trends. Let’s hope he sticks with it.