Where to Belly Wine Bar, the cozy, charcuterie-slinging hangout next to sister restaurant the Blue Room in Kendall Square. Closed after a fire in August 2015, both spots recently reopened.
What for A super-eclectic wine list from Liz Vilardi, who co-owns the place with husband Nick Zappia; all manner of snacks to accompany the drinks; and a warm, friendly vibe.
The scene Cantabrigians sniff and swirl in the subterranean space — at a U-shaped marble bar, on apple-green banquettes, at communal tables. The ceiling is made from rough wood planks, the floor tiled in an Escher-esque black-and-white knotted design. Staffers in homespun beige aprons have hair dyed exciting hues to contrast. On a board above the bar are listed flavor profiles of cheese: Fresh. Butter. Earth. Salt. Funk. The Blues.
What you’re eating Local oysters, salumi, and house-made charcuterie from jagerwurst to pork and pistachio pate. Cheese is divvied up by flavor profile — the serious fromagist will want to order a vast board titled simply “The Mongeress Loves You.” Small plates include broccoli rabe with bagna cauda, dukkah, and caramelized onion tahini; “everything but the bagel” (pastrami beef tongue with yogurt cheese, tomatoes, and capers); and changing items written on the “Spare Parts” board — anything from chicken wings to gnocchi with ragu.
Care for a drink? On a recent visit, that wine list was all whites, with one rose and one red tucked at the bottom. Categories ranged from “crisper” to “rounder” to “oranger.” Of course that’s a word. You can taste each selection before you commit, and the ability to order 2-ounce pours of every wine means you can sample a sparkler from Emilia Romagna, a malagouzia from Macedonia, and a chardonnay-tocai orange wine from Friuli, and still leave relatively unimpaired.
Overheard Talk about debates, autumn romance, and wine. “How much media training did Hillary get not to lose her cool?” marvels a woman sipping Riesling and gnawing wings. “Didn’t he know there would be a split screen and he shouldn’t make those faces?” At the bar, friends trade tales of blossoming love: “He took me apple picking and I thought it was such a romantic thing to do. We ate apples all the way home and tossed the cores out the window.” And possibly impending nuptials: “They’re traveling to Europe together this fall. I keep hearing about couples who either get married or break up after a trip like that.” Looking at the menu, one patron gasps in horror: “I heard on the radio that the region in France that grows Chablis was devastated by a hail storm in the spring. What are we going to drink with oysters now?”
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-494-0968, www.bellywinebar.com.