Veeno, the Italian Wine Cafe
Two young Italian businessmen, Nino and Andrea launched their first Veeno Italian Wine Café in Manchester in 2013, soon branching out in Leeds, York, Bristol, Liverpool et al, before opening this summer in Rose Street, Edinburgh.
Inside the rather compact, intimate space, there’s a long bar with high shelves crammed with bottles. The drinking/dining area behind a wire grill partition is furnished with dark wood tables, chairs, stools and an orange sofa along the back wall. The ethos is to re-create the Italian tradition of Aperitivo, when family and friends gather in the late afternoon for a drink and savoury snack – spuntini. Sample regional cheese, olives and breads from Italy and wine from the family’s own Vineyard in Sicily, illustrated by landscape photographs around the Café.
The Veeno Experience - embrace the tradition of Aperitivo, gourmet Italian food and fine Sicilian wines.
Reviewed by Vivien Devlin
Wednesday, November 23, 2016 - 7:12pm
This is indeed an authentic wine café, with all quality produce imported from around Italy. A large map on the wall shows where Mozzarella di Buffalo, Prosciutto, Parma Ham, olives and olive oil are sourced.
The selection of spuntini, delicious canapés to share, are complemented by a range of wines from the owners' Sicilian vineyard; the first vines were planted in the 19th century by great grandfather Antonio.
There are six white and red wines, a Rose, all served by the glass as well as organic and speciality wines by the bottle. Prices are extremely reasonable – the House wine is just £14.50 a bottle. Perhaps start with Fizz, such as Classic Prosecco sec or a peachy Bellini, invented at Harry’s bar, Venice. Cocktails too – Limoncello Spritz, Negroni and Espresso Martini.
Once the drinks are sorted, then select the appetisers – a tempting choice of Bruschette, with Pomodoro, Olives pate or Tonno, Sicilian yellow fin tuna. The list of cold meats, Salame al tartufo, Pancetta and Cheese, (Pecorino, Fontina, Gorgonzola,) suggests the ideal wine for the perfect match. Add freshly baked Foccacia, Piadini flat bread and Paninis, such as with roasted peppers and aubergines, to create a substantial meal. There are salads too and classic Italian desserts.
The best introduction to Veeno, to fully understand the tradition of Aperitivo, is a Wine Tasting. One of the knowledgeable bar staff will introduce each wine, starting with Tasari, the crisp, slightly fruity, House white, served with Altamara bread and olive oil moving on slowly to the fourth wine, Nero D’Avola, “The Classic.” This is described as having a rich scent, velvety smooth, with a hint of prunes and herbs. This is served with Parma Ham.
The nosing, tasting and sipping of all these distinctive wines, and sampling bruschette, olives, cheese, grilled vegetables, et al, was a leisurely affair – an absolute feast which took nearly three hours. The finale was Home Made Tiramisu – (The staff are experts in preparing this, the only dish not imported from Italy). Feather light creamy sponge, it just melted in the mouth, accompanied by a glass of honey-sweet Marsala Superiore Riserva.
The Veeno concept is a very special wining and dining experience where the paired food and drink is so informative and most enjoyable. While they say this is not a restaurant, a couple or group of friends could order several platters of bruschette, cold cuts, bread, cheese and dessert - perhaps a Tartuffo (Truffle ice-cream with chocolate, cream and coffee) - to create a very satisfying lunch or dinner.
The one negative factor to visiting Veeno are the hard, wooden stools and chairs with no arms. These are not conductive to a relaxing few hours here. Upholstered Banquette seating around the walls of the Bar-café would be smart and comfortable, enticing drinkers and diners to linger longer. Until there’s a refurbishment makeover, bring a cushion!
The Classic Wine Tasting is £19.50 per person and highly recommended. Veeno offers a range of wine and food experiences, private parties, corporate functions and celebratory foodie events over Christmas and New Year. After you have tasted a few glasses to find your favourites, the beauty is that all wine on the menu can be purchased to take home. Also, purchase a selection of quality food products and your personally selected hamper for the perfect gift.