As Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump anxiously rehearsed their talking points and many huddled around their television screens in anticipation of the final Presidential debate, I was… sipping rose on the outdoor patio of Vine Wine Room in Westport. Despite the fact that it was mid-October, temperatures soared into the upper eighties and the sun shone gloriously. Ignoring any political tensions, a friend and I decided to take full advantage of the Indian Summer and visit the restaurant-meets-lounge on Westport’s Main Street. One week prior, Vine hired acclaimed local chef Toni Sapienza to reimagine their menu and infuse new energy into the restaurant. They had invited us down to check out the lounge and we were eager to give Toni’s cuisine a try.
Vine first arrived on the Fairfield County scene in July and held its grand opening this past September. When it began, the owners imagined more of an upscale hangout spot. The intimate space includes only a handful of tables and a few more seats at the bar, making it ideal for socializing. They focused on wines by the glass and cocktails, then supplemented the extensive beverage offerings with a few small plates. In the past few weeks, they transformed their vision, bringing Toni onto the team.
“We started off as a wine bar, but it didn’t seem to be enough food,” manager Heather Ferrari explained. “Now, Vine is more of a restaurant.”
Toni returned to her Italian roots when crafting Vine’s new menu. She describes the offerings as “Italian, rustic, Tuscan.” There are approximately five entrees, a number of pastas, and smaller bites she likens to “street food.”
Diners love Toni’s meatballs. In fact, Vine has created an evening around them: Wednesday Meatball and Martini nights. Guests can enjoy half price meatballs along with one of their specialty martinis. We could not wait to sample them for ourselves!
It was clear why they have emerged as a favorite. Each serving includes two meatballs, a touch larger than a golf ball. They came adorned with melted mozzarella that made beautiful strands of ooey gooey cheese when we lifted our forks. The consistency of the meatballs made them stand out. They reminded us of meatloaf: dense but tender, with garlic and spices. Toni finished the dish with her take on tomato sauce. Rather than a marinara or puree, there were whole pieces of tomato, slices of garlic, and a sprinkling of herbs. Unlike other meatballs that come smothered in sauce, Toni included a few spoonfuls alongside and under the meatballs. The meatballs were the star, and the sauce was simply a delicious complement.
Vine also offers an array of salads, which looked particularly appealing on the unseasonably warm day. We selected the salad of Roasted Golden Beets with a fig infused goat cheese, honey, pistachios, and balsamic.
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