I accidentally stumbled upon the best bartender in New York City about a month ago and, as you know, I'm not that easy to impress when it comes to things of such profound importance.
Before Cesar and I headed to the Knicks game a few weeks ago, we decided it would be a pretty good idea to get sauced. You know - so we might actually enjoy ourselves. We picked up our tickets at my friend's place on 43rd and 10th, so I suggested we try this little Italian place called Esca. I'd been scoping it out for a while, so I thought that now was as good as time as any to try it.
Now, Cesar and I aren't very formal ... or very classy for that matter. So, no matter how nice the restaurant, or expensive the food, we opt to eat at the bar. We like to be close to the motherload and bartenders are usually a lot more casual than servers.
That's when we met Victor.
Victor has a thick NYC accent and a couple kids. He knows the menu inside and out, and he's really into his job. I like this. But even more important, he makes a mean sapphire dirty. A lady next to us asked about the Nero D'Avola - my new favorite wine. I spouted the virtues of it, so he gave me a free glass. At the end, Victor suggested a chocolate crepe with hazelnut gelato and mascarpone mousse. Good man. We left him a ridiculous tip and went off on our merry way to the game.
As we walked, I told Cesar that a good NYC bartender will always give his/her regulars free drinks (I'm his mentor, as it turns out). After all, NYC has so many tourists that bartenders strive to keep their local regulars happy.
Last night we were in the neighborhood again. I suggested we go pay old Victor a visit. I declared that if he remembered us, he was in. If he didn't, to hell with him.
Victor knew us right when we walked in. Asked us how the Knicks game was, etc...
We ordered our Maker's rocks and dirty sapphire, he suggested the goods, and we chatted with Victor about his move to Florida and back. He told me that Esca was a Mario Bitali (& partners) restaurant, which I didn't know.
As we finished our drinks, Victor took our glasses and said, "let me freshen these up a little." He completely refilled them. He then asked if I'd like a bit of my fave wine.
I mean, do I even need to go on? This guy needs devoted followers, my friends. Tell him I sent you.
P.S. If you do, give him a few extra bucks for me. We accidentally only left him $20 on $93.82 -- A good tip for a normal bartender, but not for Victor. Now that it's our regular spot, I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunities to get him back.