ITV by Nick Elmi
Nick Elmi stood across the bar from me. I was too cool (nervous) to talk to him, but he definitely probably saw me. He looks the exact same as he does on TV. I took a sip of wine, and he walked away. It was 5:30pm on opening night at ITV.
ITV is chic and small. It's an acronym for "In the Valley" which is a nod to Passyunk Ave, where it's located, since 'passyunk' roughly translates to the same thing. Or so I've read. ITV is all polished wood, bare bulbs, and knowledgable bartenders. The deliberate understatement definitely keeps the focus on the wine and cocktails, as does the bar menu, which only allows one small column for appetizers. And that is exactly the way it should be. Wine should not be an afterthought. Hence, this blog.
We all know who owner Nick Elmi is - Top Chef winner, three bell haver for next-door neighbor Laurel, Guy Savoy and Le Bec Fin trainee. ITV had long generated buzz due to Nick's legitimacy, and, by extension, Laurel's consistent success and difficult-to-come-by reservations (Nick owns Laurel too). I was momentarily disappointed that he didn't welcome me personally, not that we know each other, but a continued scouring of the wine list eased my mind regarding my non-celebrity status. The Philadelphia Wine Scene is getting so good!!
By the glass, there were two sparklers, four whites, two rosés, and four reds, ranging from $11-$20. The 25 or so bottles, including three sakes, cost between $65-$140, with most being just over the $100 mark. Since taking down 25 bottles of wine would have been a bit ambitious for a single evening (even for me), my husband, who had supportively joined me for a night of wine tasting, and I decided to dive right into wines by the glass.
Highlights: We both agreed the wine of the night was the 2014 Hexamer Weissherbst, a rose Pinot Noir from Nahe, Germany, for $15. The bottle itself is findable (not in PA of course) for about $20, but the point is, you're in an amazing wine bar with Nick Elmi standing right in front of you, a knowledgable bartender is serving you and cleaning up after you, and you don't have to commit to an entire bottle. Well worth the price point and bar bill in general. The Hexamer Weissherbst was elegant and reminded me of strawberries, honey dew, and light herbs. I think I'm going to order a bottle once I finish this post. A close second was the 2014 Chateau de la Greffiere VV, Macon La Roche-Vineuse, a Chardonnay from the Macon in southern Burgundy for $11. I know a lot of you are about to start yelling about how you hate Chardonnay, but try it. Chardonnays aren't all oaky butterballs. There is a reason Chardonnay is popular, it can be transcendent and I purposefully chose that word.
Of note: The 2014 Chateau La Colombiere Les Jaquairies from Fronton for $14. Super weird and super bold choice because it's off the beaten path. And after the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay front runners, it was nice to go to the 'Other' zone. Fronton is in southwest France, and the blend was Mauzac and Len de l'El, two grapes that are practically unknown in the US. It was appley and florally and mildly beeswaxy. I would definitely order it again and feel artsy and sophisticated while all the more predictable wine choices stayed more popular. Familiarity does not breed contempt in this case, these lesser known offerings are just everything to a wine nerd.
The food: Have you seen Top Chef? You know the Quickfire Challenges? Well, that was the food. We ordered the Pulled Pork Chips with Sour Cream and Onion, and it looked like crispy salmon colored bubbles set alongside the most elevated sour cream and onion dressing ever. Covered with life-giving green chives and other herbs. Tom Collichio would deffo chomp that dish down. And the Smoked Trout with Pumpernickel. Think delicately sliced radish, bright greens, and salmon roe atop smoked trout spread, and all of that atop fresh, dense, nutty pumpernickel. I don't even really like salmon and I gobbled it down like a binge eating shark. My husband was not amused since that was his dish. Seriously, have you seen Top Chef? Quickfire Challenge domination. Not many people can do that. Not even many chefs can do that.
I suppose its obvious that I will be going back to ITV. I hope Nick says hello this time and brings me a glass of rosé. I hope I don't say something stupid and lame in return. Actually, I just hope I'll get a seat. ITV's wines by the glass list is expected to grow, and ITV will accommodate Laurel's before, after, and overflow crowds. As well as very easily stand on its own.
The wine crowd is coming, and like ITV's wine list - and because of the ITVs of Philadelphia and their wine lists, it's growing!! Drink well, everyone.