WELCOME TO MY LA-BORRRR-A-TORY…O?
It was a Dexter’s Lab reference, if you didn’t catch it. I should probably just move on.
If you’re a New Yorker, odds are you’ve heard of Aria Wine Bar. There’s a location in the West Village and there’s actually a location right near my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. Aria is a great spot if you want to feel like you’re “eating like a local” amongst a decent wine list and pretty tasty dishes.
Interestingly, the owners of Aria also own various similar restaurants in the city including Briciola, Cotenna, Terra, and Codino. Did you look them up yet? No, you’re not going insane or seeing quintuple (yeah, I said that.) They literally all have the SAME EXACT MENU. Aria HK and Briciola are literally RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM EACH OTHER, yet boast the same dishes in the same exact order. Fascinating…. At least they’re decent. With that in mind, I hope you’ll excuse the fact that I’ve incorporated pictures from all of the sister restaurants.
All of these spots have a true rustic feel, almost as if you’ve been transported right to the Italian countryside (just ignore the honking taxi’s outside and you’ll find it’s pretty close.) The dishes are just enough, and while they’re not going to be the finest Italian meals in NYC, they’re great options for one looking for a great, extensive pasta menu at a good price point. I’d definitely recommend the lasagna, truffle gnocchi, or the pesto pasta, by the way. And the Montepulciano (one of my FAVORITE destinations of all time) and Chianti wines are fabulous.
The owners of these restaurants have welcomed a new spot to their impressive fleet. If you check Facebook or posts from the location on Instagram, it appears that the restaurant popped up back in 2016. If you ask me, it seems that it’s only starting to get noticed now. It’s called Laboratorio329. Located just down the block from Aria and Bricola in what was originally a South African restaurant, this Italian spot has the same rustic vibe and a LOT more room. Bricola is one of the smallest restaurants I’ve ever seen, consisting of a long bar and one long community table. Aria is much more spacious and has a lovely high ceiling, but sometimes it’s impossible to get a table. Aria also has a large bar and a long community table, both of which are also hard to get spots at. Recently, the hostess at Aria has been recommending those without reservations try Laboratorio329, which is how I ended up there two weeks ago (and last night!)
The menu is exactly the same as both Aria’s and the other restaurants’, but I think the long bar and the spacious layout make Laboratorio329 more desirable. Whether it’s dinner for one, two, or four, you’re bound to have enough space to have a conversation without your neighbors to your left and right hearing every word your saying (and the reciprocal.) It also has an adorable outdoor area, which I’m sure will open once this winter spell comes to an end!
Last night I got the lasagna for the second time, and it did not disappoint. It’s extra thick and the meat is delicious. I was stuffed by the time I finished it. Two weeks ago I tried the parpadelle ragu, and while it was a great dish, I was hoping it was going to be a tomato-based sauce. Totally my mistake (how can I call myself Italian?!)
So if you’re ever in the Hell’s Kitchen area and you’re in need of a decent spot with a sleek, expensive feel, look no further! And did I mention the prices? Pasta dishes run at $14 each (aside from the truffle gnocchi, that’s $25 and I learned that by ordering it from the “specials” in the past…) and you can get a bottle of the Montepulciano wine for $49, a decent option if you’re splitting with one or two other people (unless you’re drinking it yourself- no judgement here.)
Have you tried Laboratorio329? What did you think? Also, when did it actually open?! Can someone confirm? Let me know in the comments below!
*cover photo courtesy of Aria Wine Bar