Vino Vino, the Hyde Park wine restaurant and mainstay, is still temporarily closed since July. Owner and founder Kelly Bell says he wants to “reset” the 13-year-old establishment with a new menu, new chef, and new general manager. During the closure, which Bell says is temporary, he says he wants to reconfigure the restaurant into “an approachable wine bar for the community,” according to the release.
Along with that, Bell says he is also open to finding a new partner for Vino Vino, or even outright selling the restaurant to the “perfect person.” Restaurant consultant Harlan Scott is overseeing the revamp.
The departure of Vino Vino’s executive chef Ben Schwartz and general manager Doug West jumpstarted the closure. Bell — who is retired and not involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurant — claimed that the two left the restaurant in a lurch by telling the staff it would close at the end of August, because they planned on leaving for a different project. He also said that Schwartz and West “essentially gutt[ed] the restaurant overnight” by finding new jobs for the current Vino Vino staff, which forced the restaurant to close suddenly on Tuesday, July 2 because of lack of employees.
However, Schwartz tells Eater a different story: that he and West “were let go” from the restaurant, “and the staff decided to come with us.” He said that he and West gave the staff the “opportunity to stay” at Vino Vino, but “zero of them chose to stay.” Schwartz confirmed that he and West have another project in the works, but couldn’t disclose further details at this moment.
Bell opened Vino Vino on 4119 Guadalupe Street in 2006 with then-partner Jeff Courington. The two opened a second restaurant, the Italian spot Al Fico, in 2015, which quickly closed in 2016. Courginton left Vino Vino in January 2017. Later that same year, Vino added high-profile chef Adam Brick (formerly of Apis) and beverage director Paul Ozbirn (formerly of Parkside Projects) as new partners overseeing the kitchen and front-of-house starting in November 2017. Brick expanded the menu with richer and comparatively more expensive small plates and larger entrees, but quickly left the restaurant a month later. Ozbirn followed in May 2018. Later Schwartz and West joined the Vino in July 2018, where the menu stuck to pricier smaller and larger plates with a new emphasis on cheese and meat boards. The two departed this month under the disputed circumstances outlined above.
Right now, the future of venerable Vino Vino remains unclear, since it’s up in the air whether Bell will hold onto the restaurant or not and the revamp is wholly dependent on who he finds to run the restaurant. Bell is aiming to reopen sometime in August. Despite all the upheaval through the years, the restaurant is still one of the city’s best wine destinations and happy hour spots.
- All Coverage of Vino Vino [EATX]