Nick Ferrante of Hearth and Terroir Invites You to Paul Grieco’s Wine Sandbox

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"When Paul and Marco opened the restaurant, there was a lot of buzz in the industry." Photo: Melissa Hom

Hearth celebrated its fifth anniversary this fall, and musician Nick Ferrante is part of the inaugural wait staff hired by Marco Canora and Paul Grieco. Ferrante's previous gig was a Mexican dive bar near the Seaport, but Grieco liked him enough personally to look past a lack of formal dining experience. Now, Grieco's enthusiasm for wine has also been passed onto Ferrante. When the waiter isn't drumming for the Black Hollies (at Rehab on January 23), he's bartending at sister wine bar Terroir. We asked him about the evolution of Hearth and what's buzzing at the nearby wine lover's playground.

How has the clientele evolved at Hearth since you've been there?
When Paul and Marco opened the restaurant, there was a lot of buzz in the industry. Those people still come, but it's more of a smattering. It's been five years, so the word about the restaurant has certainly traveled; you'll see a whole bunch of Australians that will come in because Hearth was featured in some travel magazine published in Australia. The neighborhood has certainly changed. It's quite a bit more gentrified so you get more neighborhood people coming in who maybe couldn’t afford it before.

What's the dynamic between Paul Grieco and Marco Canora?
They're very different people. Marco can be slightly more volatile in his moods. He definitely has more of a classic chef's temperament, but he's very fair and doesn't fly off the handle for no reason. Paul is much smoother, personality-wise. He's the face of the restaurant. Much cooler under fire, because he has to be. They complement each other very well.

Grieco mentored Gramercy Tavern beverage director Juliette Pope. What has he taught you?
When I started working, I knew there was red, white, and rosé. Every evening we taste something as a group and talk about it. Those conversations night after night are basically like a master class.

Were you involved with the opening of Terroir wine bar?
Me and a guy named Mark Sheska who works at Terroir and started at Hearth had a lot of conversations with Paul about what the wine bar's philosophy would be. He describes it as "this is my little sandbox, our little sandbox" and we can do whatever we want here. All summer, for instance, the white wines by the glass were all Rieslings. And you get people who came in and were just livid. The place is so small, he's allowed to be so hyperspecific about what he wants to serve and how he wants to educate people about wine from across the world. Little experiments make it super fun. All fall was sherry. And as soon as it runs its course, there will be something else featured.

Terroir got some attention when Alan Richman wrote there were Girls! Girls! Girls! and no men around to flirt with them. Did you start getting more men after that?
Honestly, I saw more than one group of guys come in and be like, "oh, come on, I heard there was supposed to be a lot of women here," and either there was or wasn't and they were happy or disappointed. Yeah, there were a few weeks where you would see these guys coming in who were obviously not interested in the finer points of Riesling…