St. Austere

10/12/2011 4:00 AM |

St. Austere

613 Grand St, Williamsburg
Rating: Four out of 5 L’s

All too often wine bars are simply restaurants in disguise, inviting you in with the promise of a drink but leaving you with a hefty dinner bill, lest you get an eye-roll from a grumpy waiter impatiently watching you sip a single glass of Pinot Noir. At St. Austere, however, the choice is yours. Want to simply have a drink or two? Go ahead. Friendly owner Fabrizio Pirolo won’t bother you while you drink at the bar. Looking to fill up on inventive Italian fare? Grab a seat at one of the communal tables in back and chow down. The 39-seat bar claims on its Facebook page that it doesn’t want to be classified as a wine bar, club or restaurant; while it focuses on wine, it can definitely be whatever you want it to be, from neighborhood watering hole to low-lit date spot.

On weekend nights, the long,
aluminum bar fills up fast, a
diverse crowd of business casual
professionals and twentysomething
creatives taking
up almost all of the wooden
stools by 8pm. The beers, like
all of the wines, come from the
Old World, which is what oenophiles
call Europe for some
reason. There are five brews on
tap, including Gaffel Kolsch,
Radeberger Pilsner and Fuller’s
Porter. Opt for a bottle and
you’ll have 30 more choices.

As for wine, you can expect
a selection of 50, a nice mix
of obscure and approachable
bottles with a decent selection
by the glass. Sit down and outcomes a ceramic bowl filled
with pungent pickles, made
in-house and served with little
toothpicks. The food here has
real pedigree—the consulting
chef is Fabrizio’s brother
Michael, who serves as chef
de cuisine at Scott Conant’s
Scarpetta in Miami. The result
is relaxed, Italian-inflected
small plates that rise above the
usual bruschetta and meatball
offerings of most wine bars,
including a creamy polenta
awash in chicken jus and dotted
with spicy sausage, and a
clever Banh Mi(lano) sandwich
made by stuffing a crispy
roll with thick slices of mortadella,
pickled veggies and a
spicy chili sauce.

While Michael helps with the
menu from South Florida, the
rest of the family helps from
here in Brooklyn. Fabrizio,
who started out as a wine distributor,
co-owns the space
with his brother John and his
sister Jacqueline, who previously
worked on the production
side of the wine business.
It’s a warm, convivial place,
exposed brick lined with wine
bottles and works from local
artists, with dangling Edison
bulbs providing a gentle glow.
Call it a wine bar, gastropub
or whatever you want; all I
know is that you’ll probably be