A real estate lawyer, two decades ago he participated in the birth of his first child and realized he needed a career to better incorporate family. So Danis decided to chuck it all to invest in “pizza and pasta,” and the idea for Columbus legend Figlio was born.
Although he lives in Upper Arlington with his wife, Laurie, and their three daughters, he thought 20 years ago that Grandview could become Central Ohio’s next happening spot, so he opened his restaurant’s doors there—participating in a boom that continues today.
And seven years ago, when the spot adjacent to Figlio became available, Peter and Laurie Danis had this crazy idea that wine just might be the next “wave” on the horizon, so they birthed Vino Vino, which is without a doubt one of the most fun and foodiest wine bar in the city.
Brian and I strolled into Vino Vino on a recent Wednesday night, having recently deposited our son with his grandparents for a few days and in desperate need of a night out after our house was struck by a tree in the recent storm (hello new front porch!) and we endured (with much of the rest of Columbus) the multi-day power outage in 100-plus degrees.
Although the outdoor seating reminded us of an Italian café, we opted to head inside to the air conditioning, and took a seat at a bar-top table to watch the action of other diners and our talented, congenial waiter/bartender Devin Ryan.
One look at the menu made it clear that this would be a wine visit like few others.
Vino Vino does offer an extensive list (at least 100 bottles) and charismatic flights, with wines that made me say, “Holy cow, he has that?” But it also offers a menu of which most restaurants would be envious, featuring gourmet offerings for any tastes at plentiful quantities.
I didn’t call Vino Vino “fun” by accident—everything about it reflects Danis’ lighthearted personality, from the menu (designed by eldest daughter, Kevlin), to the themed wine flights, complete with thought-provoking explanations.
On the night we visited we could choose from:
- White Satin Sheets, “With warmer weather, it’s time to take off the flannels and put on the satin sheets,” with a trio of whites from France, California and Italy;
- Honey, Can We Try Something New Tonight, “routine can lead to boredom in any part of the house. So come on now, let’s spice things up (in the kitchen, obviously, you’re on your own upstairs),” and;
- ilove technology and red wine, “After all the fanfare I finally decided to buy an iPhone…so today I pay homage to wines that blend art with science. I only wish Siri could sip them too.”
Since we were typing notes into an iPad and taking iPhone photos of Vino Vino, we simply had to opt for that flight, and “Honey.”
The wine pours were generous and, to allow for a more individually paced experience, came all at one time in numbered glasses with a cheat sheet of description and explanation (from Danis’ own experiences) on each varietal.
I don’t know what kind of lawyer Danis was, but as a pairer of wines he is a true legal eagle, as my technology flight moved from the light plum of a 2010 Alchemist pinot noir from Oregon to the rich cherryness of an excellent Educated Guess Cabernet from Napa (my favorite), and capped with the taste explosion of John Caldwell’s Rocket Science red blend from Napa.
Brian’s trio was just as compelling, featuring blends including one of the biggest Grenaches I’ve had in recent memory, the 2010 Ludovicus, as well as a 2008 Primus carmenere blend and the deep berries of the Tikal “Patriota” Bonarda.
But our night was far from over.
We next turned to the menu, where we dined on wild mushrooms in a satiny Marsala cream sauce, the smoothness complimented by crispy polenta cakes, and mussels in a jalapeno, tomato, butter broth that had us frantically waving down Devin for more bread to dip.
We followed with beef tenderloin in a shitake mushroom sauce dotted with blue cheese and onions with a blended potato side, and scallops with capers in a sweet and snappy sundried tomato sauce, accompanied by a mound of spinach linguine.
I couldn’t believe Brian could still be hungry after that, but when Devin mentioned strawberry cheesecake, our meal was satisfyingly complete.
By the time we left at 7:30 p.m., it was getting hard to find a place to sit in Vino; it filled with girlfriends catching up on their life and careers, couples on their first date, a longtime married couple lazily sipping a bottle of Chardonnay, and a young couple with their infant son.
Vino Vino, it seemed, offered something for everyone, no matter what his or her situation.
I, for one, am already looking for a reason to go back.