1195 Island Avenue, East Village
(No longer in business.)
The Italian word bottega carries a sort of double meaning. It can simply mean a shop (like the more commonly known Spanish bodega), or refer to an artist's workshop. Americano, of course, refers to something American, and is also the secretly derisive term coined by Europeans for the style of watered down espresso favored by those who don't wish to take their black coffee in shots.
So the East Village's recently opened Bottega Americano (previewed by Ed Bedford just before opening) could be interpreted a number of ways, and probably lives up to each of them. Located about a block up from the Central Library, at the corner of Island and Park, the ambitious Euro-styled market and restaurant space features a number of stations, each serving different types of food and/or beverages. In one corner you'll find a salumeria slicing up cured meats and cheeses. Near that, a full service bar. Across from that a pescheria, aka crudo bar, serving oysters on a half shell and other raw or cured seafoods.
The standard lunchtime guest, myself included, will probably gravitate to the panini counter, which also serves salads and a coupe of daily soups (insalate and zuppe to those intent on maintaining the Italianness of the place).
I thought really hard about trying their meatball sandwich, served with tomatoes, mozzarella, and a five-herb pesto, but the counter staff seemed to think the chicken sandwich, made with Mary's free range chicken, broccoli rabe, roasted red pepper, fontina cheese, and garlic aioli, would be more to my liking. Each sandwich is meant to be served on a "hoagie roll" (do we call them that here?), but they were fresh out of rolls, and trying meatballs on grilled focaccia seemed like a betrayal somehow. I went with the chicken, and — because the coffee menu looked pretty thorough, with pour-over, French press and iced drinks available — a caffeinated beverage.
I picked out my side of potato chips (salt and vinegar), found a seat on the sizable patio, and sipped what turned out to be a very rich and chocolatey 19-hour cold brew made with beans from neighbor Café Virtuoso. A smooth drink — which was good, because it turns out, this ain't fast food, at least not yet, and my food took awhile while they worked out a few kinks.
Fortunately, that patio is a fairly nice and interesting place to wait it out. I watched the trolley roll by, along with a healthy mix of design and law students, office workers, and shirtless homeless men stroll the sidewalks. I chatted with fellow diners, who all seemed generally happy with their lunches, ranging from pasta salads to a sort of tuna niçoise panini.
When my sandwich finally arrived, I found myself pressed for time, and had to take it, wrapped in paper, to go. By the time I'd gotten home, the cheese had congealed a bit so it wasn't a perfect eat, but it tasted pretty good. Considering there's a low ceiling to just how good a panini ever can taste, I'd call it a success. Given how wide open and pleasant the space is, I'll probably head back one of these days to try some prosciutto and house cured salmon from the other food stations.