Why would a woman who spent seven years working on the wildly popular "CSI" franchise give it up to open an Echo Park wine bar? To many an aspiring Angeleno in the entertainment industry, that would be a mystery worthy of Horatio Caine himself. But for 37-year-old Nicole Daddio, who left a position as associate producer of brand management on the shows to open up City Sip on Sunset and Alvarado, the move was a no-brainer.
"Ironically, I had what a lot of people would consider to be a dream job," says Daddio, who says that her two strengths on the shows were branding and throwing holiday parties. "It was just foreshadowing for what I'm doing now."
Daddio, who has an easygoing manner and an infectious laugh, began taking wine classes with the International Sommeliers Guild as a "fluke." But when her friends started demanding that she teach them what she was learning, she realized she had a gift. Eventually she quit her job and taught total strangers about wine out of her house.
In August 2007, she signed the lease on the former plumbing store that would become City Sip. The next year proved to be a wild ride -- with endless permitting stumbling blocks. By the summer of 2008, she was almost out of money and getting into what she calls a "scary situation," so a good friend threw her a new-business shower.
"I went and registered for everything I needed, and my friends bought my wine glasses and my meat slicer and all sorts of things," says Daddio. "All my bar stools have the names of the people who contributed on plaques."
City Sip -- the result of this it-takes-a-village effort -- hits all the right notes of sleek and sexy without slipping into cheesy. The room is shaped like a barbell, with a few thick wooden tables by a large window in the front, a few in the back and a long bar in the middle. The back wall contains a neat row of hollowed-out spaces occupied by wine bottles and candles embellished with corks.
There is a deli case filled with meats for the many charcuterie plates (Spanish chorizo, Speck, salami, prosciutto), loads of wine racks and a wine-centric mural on the back wall that looks as if it were uncovered during an archaeological dig. It turns out it was created by a local artist who spent two months creating layers using materials as diverse as cheesecloth, metal, crayon, acrylic and stamps.
Daddio keeps her wine list full of small producers, including some that are hard to find elsewhere and many that fall in the $20 and less range. "Our niche is boutique-style wines that are value priced," says Daddio.
Like many of today's young and modern oenophiles, Daddio just wants to keep fermented grapes fun. "Everyone has a different palate; there's no right and wrong," she says. A good way to sample wine at City Sip is to enjoy one of the many $14 flights Daddio has curated. There's "Temper! Temper! Temper!," which guides you through the feisty world of Spanish and Portuguese Tempranillos, or "Explore the Body," a trio of Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Merlot. The "Rainbow" tempts the taste buds with Pinot Gris, rosé and Zinfandel.
To complement the wines, Daddio has put together a menu of hot panini sandwiches and salads with the help of chef Reggie Southerland (who was a runner-up on "The Next Food Network Star"; winning would have earned him his own TV show). Happily, that menu launches tonight, and on it you'll find the likes of marinated eggplant, and chocolate and hazelnut pressed sandwiches.
For Daddio, the goal is creating a space that acts as an extension of her living room, and it seems that's just what Echo Park wanted too. "I've lived in the neighborhood for five years," says Daddio. "And I felt there was a void. You have great places like the Short Stop, the Little Joy and the Echo. The hole was for a more adult place, casual but not grungy."
City Sip Where: 2150 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A. When: 6 to 11 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays and Sundays; 6 p.m. to midnight Fridays; 5 p.m. to midnight Saturdays Price: Wine by the glass $6-$16; charcuterie $6-$10; paninis $7.95-$10.95 Contact: (213) 483-9463; www.citysipla.com