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The SCENE Magazine

Vino e Formaggio Café sets the stage for wine lovers

Oct 03, 2018 08:44PM ● By John Ennis
Vino e Formaggio Café, located at 20801 Gulf Freeway (Suite 25) in Webster, is both the name of the venue and its description in Italian. Translated to English, it means “Wine and Cheese Café.” Nestled in the corner of the Bayway Village Shopping Center (off of the Interstate-45 feeder), Vino e Formaggio is the perfect after-work or date-night destination. With its close proximity to two movie theaters, it’s easy for couples to complete the “dinner and a movie” scenario and have a couple glasses of wine as well. The ambience at Vino e Formaggio is warm, cozy and inviting – as if you were stepping into someone’s living room. Owner Michael Limanni, whose attention to detail can be seen in every aspect of the business, meticulously designed the space and did much of the build-out on his own. From the bar to the kitchen, to the table settings and the bathrooms, and all points in between, everything has been well thought out – including the sound system and acoustics, which allow guests to carry on a conversation without having to raise their voices above the weekend live music. 

"Vino e Formaggio was designed to mirror an inviting home in which people can gather and communicate without the distraction of televisions or flashing neon advertising on the walls," said Limanni. 

With his background in theater, it’s no wonder that ambience is of the utmost importance to Limanni. He explained he once visited a hotel bar in Chicago, which was reminiscent of the post-prohibition bars of the 1930s, and described how he had been immersed in the retro setting until he got to further into the establishment. “There was a TV directly over the bar, and it was so disappointing to me. They completely ruined the experience,” said Limanni.

At Vino, there are no table tents on the tables and no jukebox in the corner. Guests are encouraged to engage with each other by playing one of the many board games that can be found in the bookcases and on the coffee table. The attention to detail comes with the intention of creating and maintaining that living room-feel where friends can be comfortable and connect with one another. During weeknights, Vino hosts various events such as a monthly Bunko game (with proceeds going to a local animal rescue charity), Trivia Night, and a wine-related Arts and Crafts night. Wednesday is Open Mic night for local musicians with live music on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. (arrive early to avoid the kitchen rush) performed by experienced musicians such as Chambers and Constable, Kevin Fenton, and guitarist Greg Stephens. Vino also offers a monthly wine class with detailed information about the various grapes and the regions where the vines are grown. And yes, guests also get to drink the wine while they are learning about it. Check Vino e Formaggio’s Facebook page (@vinoeformaggiocafe) for information on upcoming events.  

Like a long-running theatrical play, Vino e Formaggio appeals to a wide audience. The ambience is the setting, Limanni is the director and playwright, the food shares the spotlight as co-star, but the wine is the star of the show. With a wine list that’s sure to impress even the most discerning of wine connoisseurs, it could be possible for this wine bar to receive a standing ovation. Limanni is Level One WSET Certified, and his expertise guided him to carefully select each of the 60+ bottles of wine. The state-of-the-art wine cooler ensures that the wine is stored at the proper temperature. Every open bottle is preserved with nitrogen at closing to ensure it is as fresh as can be for the next patron. The expansive wine list includes wines from Italy, France, Australia, Chile, and the United States with varying price points ranging from $8 per glass to $69 per bottle. For those who join their wine-loving companions, but don’t particularly love wine, there are several beers on tap as well as bottled selections.

The cheese boards are à la carte, allowing guests to order a board with only the cheeses they truly enjoy. There is a discount when ordering three or more cheeses, and each board comes with a variety of extra treats in addition to the crackers. For each cheese listed on the menu, there is a detailed description as well as the best wines with which to pair it. The food menu includes a selection of Panini Sandwiches such as the Chicken Panini with Spinach, Swiss Cheese and Pesto, Eggplant Parmesan Panini, and the Sundried Tomato, Pesto, Mozzarella and Pine Nut Panini. Customers also love the gourmet 11” personal pizzas with unique toppings like baked eggplant, or the Garlic Chicken and Spinach Pizza as well as the classic cheese and pepperoni pizzas.  And you can conclude your meal with a selection of dessert and coffee.

Vino e Formaggio is a great destination for a date night, girls’ night out, meeting with coworkers, or just hanging out with friends.  But no matter the occasion, the warm and cozy atmosphere will set the scene for a relaxing evening.

Outsider Tip: There is additional parking around the back of the building accessed through the roadway between the shopping centers. Look for the number 20801-25 VINO on the outside of the door.

By Shawn Domingues