January 26, 2014, Greenwich, CT: Tucked away at 33 Lewis Street off of tony Greenwich Avenue in downtown Greenwich, Connecticut there’s a place serving contemporary Italian cuisine, pouring creative cocktails and exceptional wine, and playing an eclectic range of music. The place is Vinoteca Restaurant & Wine Bar, a new style of dining and entertainment produced by Paul Ardaji Jr of Groove Dining Group based out of Palm Beach, Florida.
Groove Dining Group has taken their successful and proven concept that combines good food and drinks with music and a high energy vibe, and has brought it to Fairfield County in the form of Vinoteca. Paul, a Greenwich native and seasoned restaurateur, has transformed his father’s former Italian restaurant, Toscana, into a contemporary, yet plush, dining room, lounge and bar. Jay Haverson of Haverson Architecture in Greenwich, known for his innovative design concepts locally (Gabriele’s Steak House and Mediterraneo) and for his years designing with renowned hospitality architecture firm, The Rockwell Group, has created a sleek and refreshing space, while keeping its neighborhood appeal.
Upon entering the restaurant, an intimate wine bar and high top communal tables set the tone for what then opens up into an 85-seat dining room and gathering space which morphs into club-like atmosphere later in the evening. Large Old Hollywood half-moon banquette and booth seating, round cocktail ottomans and comfy sofas are covered in rich deep red fabrics and gray leather and paired with dark wood furnishings. Subtle light accents throughout the room keep things relaxed and warm.
“The space and the location lend itself to more of a social and interactive destination, “believes Paul, “We’ve poured a lot of money into the space and a lot of passion into the menu with the goal of Vinoteca filling a void in the Greenwich dining and nightlife scene.”
The Vinoteca menu, as with the space, stays true to Groove’s overall philosophy of good food and good times. Chef Jesus Alarez brings out the best in regional Italian cuisine while incorporating global influences from as far as Asia and as familiar as California, keeping it fresh and simple, while not holding back on flavor. The wood-fired oven and display kitchen are situated in the center of the space for all to see, adding to the energy of the room.
Appetizer highlights include; Arancini, deep fried arborio rice balls with mozzarella and fontina cheese served with San Marzano tomato sauce; Creamy Polenta with braised short ribs, maitake mushrooms and a Barolo wine reduction; and “Spiedini Cucho”, filet mignon skewers with shishito peppers and a spicy Peruvian aji pancad.
Lighter fare options feature; Burrata with heirloom tomatoes, fruity olive oil and micro greens; Bruschetta Trio of poached lobster, tuna tartare and heirloom tomato; Crispy Artichoke Salad with organic greens, Italian parsley, lemon and chili oil; and a vibrant Kale Salad topped with sweet bosc pears, toasted walnuts and pecorino cheese. In addition to a traditional assortment of “salumeria” items such as domestic and imported cheese, dry and cured meats and grilled and marinated vegetables, Vinoteca offers a wonderful and vibrant selection of crudo including; Tuna with blood orange olive oil, sake, jalapeno and sea salt; Salmon Tartare prepared with fennel, jalapeno and lemon zest; Hamachi with Meyer lemon, serrano chile and a balsamic ponzu; and Hand Cut Beef with artichoke, truffle oil and mostarda.
Fresh pasta standouts include; Chitarra with house made meatballs and fresh tomato; Garganelli tossed with chipolata sausage and broccoli rabe; and Risotto with wild mushrooms, sweet peas and garlic chips. Wood-fired Neapolitan style pizza is topped with everyone’s favorite ingredients, as well as more creative combinations as seen with the spicy lobster and mascarpone with habanero and corn and the Mediterraneo of ground beef, red onions, harissa and lemon. Entrées include; Veal Milanese, a bone-in veal chop topped with arugula and tomato; Sea Scallops served over cauliflower puree with crispy prosciutto and mustard; and Pollo Scarpariello with hot cherry peppers, sautéed spinach and spicy sausage.
House made desserts are of the creamy tiramisu and Italian cheesecake variety, in addition to large selections of port wine, cordials and spirits. The beverage program is in keeping with the fun and accessible menu and includes 60 wines by the glass, craft beer, and top shelf cocktails prepared with fresh juices, aromatics and house made infusions such as a delicious fig infused vodka.
Vinoteca offers a “Pronto Lunch” consisting of panini, pizzette or soup and salad combinations, plus a beverage, for only $12. Sunday Brunch ($ 15 a la carte or $33 with bottomless Mimosas, Bloody Marys or Bellinis) specials include: hanger steak & eggs, crème brulle French toast, eggs benedict with smoked salmon, eggs benedict with prosciutto di parma and pancakes with Tuscan orange maple syrup and Sambuca cream.
Guests can look forward to a revolving schedule of some of best DJs from the New York Metropolitan area, providing a break from the norm. From “Burger and Barolo” to “Ciao Bella” Ladies Night, Vinoteca Restaurant & Wine Bar is a gathering destination for today’s modern dining and music culture.
Lunch and dinner – 7 days a week, including Sunday Brunch
33 Lewis Street
vinotecagreenwich.com (under construction)