New York City's Dante is the Perfect Afternoon Escape
Over the past couple years, the team from New York City’s Dante has traveled around the world hosting pop-ups, spreading the gospel of aperitivo. They’ve brought their low-alcohol and bitter cocktails to bars and events in London, New Orleans, Moscow and beyond, giving other countries a taste of the style of drinking that originated in northern Italy but that the Dante team has truly made its own. But as fun as these pop-ups are (it’s hard to argue against a self-service Negroni fountain), the best place to drink Dante’s cocktails is at Dante itself, specifically mid-afternoon, when light streams through the storefront windows and onto the bright white brick walls and white-and-teal banquettes.
Dante opened in 1915 as Caffe Dante, a Greenwich Village gathering place for the city’s Italian community. A hundred years later, Naren Young and Linden Pride took it over and gave it a refresh and strong cocktail focus. Dante isn’t just a bar, though—it opens at 10 a.m. to serve breakfast: espresso, ham and cheese croissants and hazelnut granola with raspberry compote and yogurt. Later in the day, it’s a restaurant serving housemade pappardelle dressed with wild boar ragù and fennel salad with blood orange. But Dante’s soul is at its subway-tiled bar, where the lit-up shelves feature bottles of red bitters and pre-mixed cocktails and invite lingering with friends over a long afternoon.
“Day drinking is making a big comeback, and at Dante, we’re at the forefront of this movement,” Young says. “Our concept was always conceived as an all-day, European-inspired aperitif bar, so we lean toward drinks that are low-alcohol, refreshing and elegant. The kinds of beverages you can have four to five of and still feel sober and refreshed.”
That means drinks like the signature Garibaldi, Campari mixed with orange juice that’s made “fluffy” by running the fruit through a high-speed juicer; an all-day bloody Mary with vodka-spiked cold-pressed vegetable juice; and vermouth service ($10, recipe).
“Vermouth is finally making a comeback after many decades in the shadows,” Young says. “But how do we get Americans to understand it and get excited by it? Like many of our drinks, we needed a ritual—a unique and dynamic way to serve it that made sense.”
That ritual—vermouth dispensed on draft and served in a goblet with frozen grapes to chill the drink without dilution, along with sparkling water and a lemon twist—sums up the aesthetics of Dante. The garnishes, like an orange wedge balanced across the Garibaldi or a wisp of baby’s breath floating on the Negroni bianco, are beautiful and considered, and always necessary. The same care is given to the airy design, the hiring of warmly enthusiastic staff and the rest of the menu, whether it’s wine or beer or food.
“The great thing about Dante is that it evolves over the course of the day,” Young says. “Because we are part-restaurant, part-craft cocktail bar, part-wine bar, part-coffee shop, part-teahouse, part-beer hall, people treat us in many different ways. That’s the beauty of Dante.”
Amy Cavanaugh is the senior editor of Plate and a devoted Negroni drinker.