The Coastal Star

Dining: Wine Room on Atlantic Avenue taps local talent for staffing

The Wine Room Kitchen & Bar has two full bars to go with wine-tasting areas and a kitchen that lets the business ‘stand alone as a restaurant,’ says John Bates, the general manager. Photo provided

By Jan Norris

It’s old home week at The Wine Room Kitchen & Bar in Delray Beach. Diners who frequent Atlantic Avenue hot spots will recognize the pedigree of staffers at the newly opened place, which took over Caffe Martier’s space in the Arcade.

John Bates, the general manager, is from the former 32 East, as is beverage director John Fitzpatrick. The chef, Blair Wilson, comes from the former Max’s Harvest in Pineapple Grove. Jared Jenkins worked for nearby 50 Ocean, and Ana Malatesta comes from MIA out west. They are food and beverage managers.

The differences in this second version of the Wine Room, which began in Winter Park, are the full bars and the restaurant.

The focus here is as much on foods as wines, Bates said. “That’s why we call it the Wine Room Kitchen and Bar.

“It needs to stand alone as a restaurant,” he said. “The culinary end of this is great. The chef is doing a great job. He’s put together a really good menu.”

Wilson is turning out dishes meant for sharing or grazing, such as hamachi crudo and several flatbreads. Bluefin tuna tartare, king crab terrine, duck confit, and New Bedford scallops are menu items at present.

Vegans won’t be left out or offered only salads and a plate of sautéed vegetables, he said.

“They’re full composed dishes — a chickpea schnitzel with a roasted vegetable demi sauce that’s been reduced and reduced to give it a lot of concentrated flavors,” he said.

For vegetarians, a wood-fire roasted cauliflower is served with a goat cheese fondue, and a pine nut, kale and golden raisin agrodolce.

The concept for the original Wine Room, meant for tastings, began in Winter Park with a 230-bottle system. Owner Bruce Simberg created several rooms of machines where tasters use prepaid cards to pour from bottles that are nitrogen fed to keep oxygen at bay.

The Delray restaurant has a similar setup, with wines representative of the world’s wine-growing regions and labeled extensively. Each is available by the bottle as well, Bates said, if a taster finds one he would like to take home.

The space hosts several venues. “It’s like two full restaurants,” he said. “There’s a cheese and charcuterie shop that stands alone in the middle of the space. There’s a full production kitchen that’s serving lunch, brunch and dinner. I’ve got a rare room that holds 2,400 wines that all came from a private cellar that’s carrying over half a million dollars of inventory.

“I’ve got a wine retail shop that’s got 400 bottles. A dining room, and a private dining room.”

Two full bars are stocked with high-end scotch and bourbon: a primary main bar with a living room social area and the original bar, left from years ago when the historic building was a speakeasy. It’s been preserved and rebuilt. The room around it reflects the Prohibition-era secret club-like atmosphere.

From a 10-keg system at the bar, the staff will serve local craft brews, among others.

To attract a younger audience that favors the other end of the avenue, Bates said the restaurant is creating weekday promotions.

“We’ll do Martini Monday with half off martinis and live jazz, we’re doing a Draft Tuesday, and Wangry Wednesday — wangry is the feeling or showing of anger or irritability due to the lack of wine.”

On Wednesdays, the wine machines are half price, and 230 wines are open in the machines to taste, he said. Drinkers choose the amount poured, so multiple tastings are possible. It’s the same for happy hour, 3 to 6 p.m. daily.

There are eight tables outside and nine inside, along with the living room social space. “It’s going to be interesting to see how people use the space,” Bates said.

The Wine Room is meant to be inclusive. “You don’t have to be a wine person to come and enjoy this. You don’t even have to drink alcohol,” Bates said.

“The focus was really on being a great place to eat and being a great place to have a lot of selections of great quality wines, and being able to have multiple experiences, whether it’s a grazing experience, or an experience that’s full-on fine dining.”

The Wine Room Kitchen & Bar, 411 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. Phone 243-9463; www.thewineroomonline.com. Open for lunch and dinner with brunch on weekends. Hours are Sunday 10 a.m. to midnight; Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.

                            

Suzanne Perrotto was frazzled, talking by phone about the opening weeks of her new Rose’s Daughter Italian restaurant in Pineapple Grove.

A problem with the exhaust and hood system, as well as the gas lines, had her scrambling at the last minute before opening.

“I had made friends with the people who took care of the hood and exhaust. They have to be certified, of course, so not just any workers could work on it.

“They came right away. We had to move the 3,000-pound oven over to get to the lines.”

So before Perrotto opened the doors to the public, “all those planets had to align,” she said. The biggest challenge, however, was “100 percent new staff, and 100 percent new equipment.”

Some of the employees had kitchen experience, and even classical culinary training, though not with the special coal-fired oven. Others had no kitchen work under their belts.

“Thankfully, they have really good attitudes,” she said, and “they all get along so well.”

Hiccups with training on the special pizza oven brought in Roberto Caporuscio, a master of Neopolitan pizza, for more lessons with the tricky oven.

It’s a lengthy process of proofing the dough and baking it next to hot coals in the special oven.

“They had the door open too long and they had the coals too cold,” Perrotto said. It resulted in unevenly baked pizzas.

“I told them for every mistake they make, they’re getting better. It’s how you learn.”

She’s keeping the menu simple and not using much creativity just yet.

“I’m not that egotistical,” she said. “I’m trying not to stress out the staff. I just want to create joy, definitely take the ego out of the food.”

She has tweaked the menu only slightly, adding a couple of gluten-free pizzas. “I’m adding quinoa flour for protein but being really cautious,” Perrotto said.

The chef/owner wanted to do a gluten-free pasta but was unsatisfied with the options of flourless noodles. She perfected the fresh pasta she served and uses a high-end cooker to get perfectly al dente results.

“I went to Bedner’s Market and got all their baby yellow squash and zucchini, and we julienned them. It’s our gluten-free pasta option, and people love it,” Perrotto said.

The response from the neighbors and her customers from nearby Brulee has been “so humbling,” she said, especially once they see the exposed kitchen and new design of the former Max’s Harvest.

“Everyone is so excited to see the openness. It’s undisturbed all the way through (to the back patio). It’s really what I said I wanted: people talking and eating. Sitting with total strangers and sharing. It’s very communal.”

A grab-and-go breakfast is proving to be a hit, too. A spinach and ricotta croissant that’s made in house is one of the dishes she has kept simple. Special scones and pastries are served along with freshly squeezed orange juice and coffees.

She’s dazed from long hours and the stress of the opening, but says she’s thankful how well Rose’s is doing so far.
“I can’t tell you how humbled I am. As hard as it is to get up at 5 a.m. and stay till 2 a.m., to do all that, it’s really tiring. But I can’t wait to get in here.

“I’m not sure why I would deserve all this. I guess hard work does pay off.”

Rose’s Daughter, 169 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach. Phone 271-9423; www.rosesdaughterdelray.com. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 7-11 a.m. for breakfast and 5-11 p.m. for dinner.

                            

In brief …

Sorry to see the closing of the Fifth Avenue Grill.

The 30-year-old restaurant had new owners as of a year ago, serving Delray diners steaks and seafood in an old-school setting that became a favorite of many.

One of the biggest questions upon its closing was, “Where will the Christmas decorations go?” The huge holiday light display will be taken over by a couple of local restaurants.

As for the old-style crisp service and expertly prepared filets and daily roasted prime rib? Into the memory palates. …

Lisabet Summa had a new refrigeration system in Elisabetta’s — the lively month-old Italian spot in the former 32 East on Atlantic Avenue. “It wouldn’t work, they’d fix it, then something else would break,” the chef/partner said.

The pitch on the floor to allow for drainage eventually was found as the culprit. Once that was corrected, all seems well.

The pizzas are popular items, from the special beehive wood-fired oven imported from Italy that both she and partner Louie Bossi are trained on.

The dough was tricky, however. Summa trained on it with master baker Daniel Leader of New York’s Bread Alone fame and got more advice on how to avoid overproofing the sourdough.

“Our process is to let it sit an extra day,” she said, but the temperature of the proofer that stalls rising had to be adjusted. The correct temp was achieved and now Summa is back with properly proofed dough balls. …

The Boca Chamber’s Boca Restaurant Month runs through Sept. 30 as an initiative to encourage local people to eat, stay and play.

Participating restaurants offer three-course meals featuring signature dishes at reduced prices: lunch, $21-$25 and dinner, $36-$40. Restaurant menus are available at www.bocarestaurantmonth.com.

Jan Norris is a food writer who can be reached at nativefla@gmail.com.

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