In Italian, felice means happy and that is exactly how I felt at Felice 83 - a sweet Tuscan restaurant & wine bar on NYC's Upper East Side. I experienced the kind of happiness that comes from being warmly welcomed when you walk through the doors and are served delicious food and wine by a gracious staff. The kind of happiness that makes you want to linger a little longer. The kind of happiness that compels you to return as soon as possible- that's Felice 83. Owned by the same family that operates the chic Sant Ambroeus and Casa Lever eateries, Felice 83 is an inviting neighborhood restaurant that makes me wish I lived right across the street.
What makes Felice 83 so special? I'm glad you asked!
Meet Jacopo Giustiniani - the exuberant creator of Felice 83 and its sister restaurant Felice 64. An Italian native, Jacopo grew up in Florence and his family produces wine at their 19th century estate in Lucca. His desire to share the wines and flavors of his homeland inspired him to open the Felice wine bars - lucky for us! Jacopo has succeeded in providing frazzled New Yorkers with a much needed Tuscan time-out! His enthusiasm and warmth have influenced the inviting ambiance of Felice 83.
Not only does the Felice 83 wine list feature an impressive selection of wines representing Italy's various regions, they also have their own private label Felice vino. Jacopo's brother Matteo is the winemaker for the family vineyard Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani and creates beautiful sustainable wines. A chilled glass of their Felice rosè is the perfect summer sip - a pale shade of pink with lovely notes of berries and roses and a fresh fruit finish. As Jacopo said, "It's not a good rosè if you don't want a second glass." I raised my second glass and nodded in agreement!
Felice also encourages patrons to be adventurous in their wine selections. For example, instead of Pinot Grigio, try a glass of their Fattoria Sardi Vermentino for a unique white wine with notes of peach, melon, and citrus accented by an appealing tinge of minerality.
Poor Merlot - this varietal has been pushed to the sidelines and ignored by so many people. I had forgotten how beautiful Merlot can be and the Fattoria Sardi Sebastiano Merlot is an eloquent expression of this gorgeous grape. Lush and full-bodied, Sebastiano is an utterly seductive wine boasting bold berry notes with hints of licorice and spice.
Also, whether you choose red or white, it is easy to drink green at Felice 83 - the wine list is coded to let you know if a wine is Organic, Sustainable or Biodynamic.
Of course, a girl can't live on wine alone and Felice 83 has a fantastic menu of Tuscan dishes, including pasta, seafood, and meat. I sampled a few appetizers and can't wait to go back to explore the menu further.
I could eat this amazing panzanella salad everyday. A traditional Tuscan dish - the salad is simply made from bread crumbs, fresh tomatoes, basil, cucumber, vinegar, and olive oil but the taste is so vibrant - it tastes like summer.
In addition to their regular offerings, Felice 83 serves a seasonal appetizer that changes daily and features a chef's selection of three tastes. My selection showcased a savory crab salad, tuna & avocado, and a crusted shrimp.
These arancini were amazing - the golden fried and lightly breaded exterior encases saffron rice balls filled with savory veal ragout, eggplant, and mozzarella. The different textures and flavors blend together in a marvelous fashion.
Felice 83 Restaurant and Wine Bar is located at 1593 First Avenue. Go, drink, eat - you'll love it! To learn more, visit their website.
PS - If you are visiting NYC, Felice 83 would be a great spot for unwinding after a day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or following a visit to Carl Schurz Park along the East River.