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When Joe Campanale set out to solve the privileged problem of crowd control at Dell’anima, the popular yet diminutive Italian eatery in which he and fellow Batali alum Gabe Thompson are partners, the solution he came up with was simple — open another place next door.
But Anfora, which will be ready for business today, isn’t merely a holding pen for its Eighth Avenue neighbor. “We were dying to do a wine bar where people could wait [for a table at Dell’anima], but we also wanted it to be a place that could be a destination,” explains the baby-faced 26-year-old who, with Thompson, also is a partner in nearby Italian restaurant L’Artusi.
Indeed, Anfora (so named for the terra-cotta vats ancient Greeks and Romans used to store wine) may have the same exposed-brick walls and cozy scale of its older sibling, but it has a personality all its own. For starters, there’s nary a drop of Italian vino on the wine list.
“I love Italian wine more than anything else, but I’m just so surrounded by it all the time,” explains Campanale, who cut his teeth as a sommelier at Babbo. “I’ve been dying to put together a list with some of my favorite wines from the rest of the world.” Namely, France’s 2007 Brézème Côtes du Rhône and 2006 Domaine Marcel Deiss Pinot Blanc — “old-world wines,” he says. (There also will be a selection of specialty cocktails.)
In addition, Anfora will serve its own distinct menu of small plates, including meat-and-cheese samplers, panini and lamb sliders — an option Campanale predicts soon will become the house’s signature dish. “It’s like a Bolognese sloppy joe,” he gushes.
Securing the neighboring space for this latest venture may seem like a lucky break, but, for the restaurateur, the process was closer to bittersweet. “It used to be a real estate agency that my cousin worked at, which was the greatest thing in the world because normally I would have rarely gotten to see him [with my] crazy hours in the restaurant,” he says. When Campanale got word the business was shuttering, “I was really sad for a second, and then I thought, Oh, wait a second, it’s closing.”
In fact, Campanale, who also managed to find an apartment for himself above Dell’anima, doesn’t have any qualms about opening a third location on that block, should lines outside Anfora become an issue. “I really hope that is a problem we have to solve in the future,” he says.
Anfora, 34 Eighth Avenue, New York; 212-578-2722; anforanyc.com.