D’Vino to open on King Street offering wine and small plates

Owners of Woof's move into space next door to open Italian restaurant featuring wine and 'cicchetti.'

In early December, Dino Maniaci hosted a preview dinner of D’Vino, the new wine and small plates bar he’s opening on King Street with his partner, Jason Hoke. The couple, who also co-own Woof’s next door, are all but ready to swing open the doors of their new venture, which should happen yet this month, Maniaci says.

Earlier plans to open the space under the name “Dino Vino” changed after another local wine bar, Eno Vino Wine Bar & Bistro, sent a cease and desist, Maniaci says. So they changed the name to D’Vino. “D’Vino means ‘of wine’ which is fine,” says Maniaci. “And obviously I don’t have to change my name … people still know me as Dino Vino, so that’s OK.”

The 40-seat wine bar takes up residency in the former Opus Lounge space. Maniaci says it was sort of serendipitous that they had been looking for a space for their wine bar when the new owners of the building Woof’s is in asked if they wanted to expand Woof’s into the next-door space. “Which I did not want to do, but I said, ‘I’m kind of thinking about opening a restaurant,’” Maniaci told the new landlord.

It’s been a longtime dream to open an Italian restaurant, which Maniaci noted at the December preview dinner. Maniaci served guests several courses of “cicchetti,” which is a Venetian word for tapas, each accompanied by “ombra” — about a three-ounce pour of wine. Visiting wine maker Andrea Rabino of Fratelli Rabino Winery, located in the Piedmont region of Italy, described each wine between courses.

Also between courses, Maniaci explained how this passion project came to be. The idea technically took root during a trip to Italy over a few glasses of wine, but he says it was also inspired by his desire to share the Italian recipes and traditions in his family that have been passed down from generation to generation. “My family always had restaurants growing up … It’s kind of always been in our blood,” Maniaci says.

Previously, Maniaci co-owned a deli and catering company in Green Bay in the early 1980s, and Hoke studied culinary arts at L’ecole de Cuisine and worked for a James Beard award-winning chef. “I’ll bring the traditional recipes to the table, and he’ll do a little bit more of the refined things and establish the plating standards, because that’s really his forte,” Maniaci says.

On the menu are classic Italian offerings — crostini, arancini, a charcuterie board, fried ravioli, specialty breads and more. Maniaci and Hoke are working with Swiss Cellars to source wines from Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland from mostly small production, family-owned vineyards. “I really want to keep it very approachable,” Maniaci says about D’Vino’s wine selection. “There’s certainly a time and place for the sommelier and the $250 bottle of wine, but we want it to be much more attainable and easy for people to enjoy.”

Many of the cicchetti offerings served at the preview dinner mirrored Maniaci’s family traditions. At the beginning of the night, guests grazed at a giant charcuterie board. “There are so many restaurants doing amazing jobs with charcuterie boards, but for me, they’re not what I grew up with,” says Maniaci. The board he composed for the dinner featured only a couple different types of cheese, meat and accouterment, as opposed to six or seven different varieties of each, Maniaci says. D’Vino’s boards will be less “mise en place” and more representative of what cheeses and charcuterie they have in-house that taste great together. Maniaci also says they plan to offer house-made ricotta on some boards.

Later in the evening, Maniaci served bagna caulda, which is a hot pot of butter, garlic, olive oil and anchovies that serves as a hot bath for dipping raw veggies and bread into. “When we were kids, we used to stuff towels under the door of our bedroom because we didn’t want to smell it,” Maniaci says. “And then of course when it was ready, we would go eat it, but we didn’t want to smell it.”

A flight of arancini was also served, which is a rendition of Maniaci’s nana’s recipe that she would make for Christmas dinner. Maniaci’s arancini are a bit smaller than the softball-sized rice balls she used to make, he says.

“What I’ve tried to do with a lot of the recipes is kind of scale things back, make them a little bit more precious, make them a little bit more special,” Maniaci says. “We’ve taken some of the classics that I grew up with and then tried to add a new twist to them based on some of the new things that are happening in the culinary world.”

Maniaci’s family history is on display through the wine bar’s décor, too. A portrait of his great grandfather, Nanno Nunzio Maniaci, hangs behind the bar. The wallpaper in the bathroom features drink coins from his great grandfather’s restaurant that he operated in Milwaukee, called Pop Maniaci’s Canadian Club. Another portrait features his great grandparents when his great grandmother was pregnant with her seventh of 10 sons. A portrait of his other great grandfather, who owned a dry goods store in Chicago, hangs on one of the back walls. And in the front of the space, a floor-to-ceiling mural depicts the piazza, or town square, from the small Italian town his great grandfather is from in Italy.

“We went to that town square and the church where my great grandfather was not only baptized and married, but buried,” Maniaci says. “It is certainly an amazing thing to have that sense of place. And then to eat some of the same food and go, ‘OK, I see where this came from and I see now how it’s changed and I see what I’ve done to change it, so it’s kind of come full circle for me, so that’s really what I’m trying to share with D’Vino here.”