Ai Fiori

Part of the The Altamarea Group of top Manhattan restaurants, and based in the Langham Place hotel on Fifth Avenue, Ai Fiori is one of New York City’s smartest Italian restaurants. Chef Michael White’s Italian and French Riviera-inspired menu is famous for its pasta dishes, although it is White’s Astice butter-poached Nova Scotia lobster, asparagus, morels, celery root purée that has earned the most attention: New York Post critic Steve Cuozzo declared it to be the “greatest dish in the world.”

The wine list reflects the Riviera influence—it’s a voyage around the French and Italian Mediterranean (including the islands), with excursions inland to some of the world’s great wine regions (it’s particularly strong on the Rhône Valley, Barolo, and Barbaresco). Our judges liked the fact the list wasn’t afraid to take risks, mixing the relatively obscure with the big names of Italian and French wine in a broad but focused list full of personality. Kudos, too, for introducing a Coravin list, which, as the judges said, allows for a fascinating by-the-glass program including mature, classic, and off-beat selections.