Bin 22 in Carytown is a coffee bar by day it's known as Betsy's and keeps that menu but after 5:30 the menu changes and the mugs are exchanged for utilitarian wineglasses (not the stemmed variety). Owned by Greg Pullen, who learned good things at Acacia and Fox Head Inn, Bin 22 features an eclectic and changing selection of international wines, many by the glass as well as the bottle. In addition, two flights ($12-$14 each) of three wines are available for those who want flavor comparisons. The wines offered in flights change weekly.
Bin 22 does not have a full kitchen, so the food offerings are straightforward hors d'oeuvres, tapas, snacks, sandwiches, desserts and additional daily specials (most under $10). It's a cozy, inviting place to meet for sipping and sharing before dinner or after a show, and in good weather, patrons can spill out onto the covered terrace.
A bottle of California pinot noir, 2001 Vino Bambino ($28), was a smooth foil for an undistinguished cold meat and cheese platter. A special flat-bread pizza with fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and artichokes (in spite of the traditional spurning of this thorny vegetable with wine like milk with fish) fared better. And slices of rich chocolate pté were a great accompaniment for the last of the wine.
Over on Broad Street, Enoteca Sogno has a different approach. The emphasis is on wine, but they're also serious about food. Taking its name from the technical-sounding word in Italian for wine bar, Enoteco Sogno appropriately features Italian wines and food. Owner Gary York, a former server at Mamma 'Zu and Edo's Squid, is enthusiastic about Italian wines and spends time in Italy each year exploring various wine-growing regions and browsing an annual wine fair. Almost all of the wines on his list are Italian, though he adds a couple of reds from the Barboursville Vineyards up the road and a few wines from Spain.
York eschews wine flights, although he offers a few wines by the glass. He prefers to see people "settle" into a wine rather than to merely taste, and the gentle bottle prices certainly encourage that. Wines are also available to purchase for off-premises consumption.
To go along with the wines, Chef Jason Teters offers his take on traditional Italian dishes. The regular menu is relatively short, starting with several antipasti that work well with wine. You can also match a pasta with your choice of four traditional sauces. The menu features only four main dishes ($10-$12) veal and chicken marsala or piccata but several specials are available daily and usually include fish and beef.
We chose a 2003 Barbera d'Alba ($17) from the extensive wine list that ranges from ubiquitous pinot grigio to prized Barolo. Our savory dinner began with an antipasto of cannellini beans, arugula and shrimp fragrantly dressed with oil and garlic. A Bolognese sauce wasn't quite right for the potato gnocchi, but the veal piccata was quite fine. The servings are not gargantuan either, but ample to satisfy any hunger pangs. We finished our dinner with a French-style panna cotta (crŠme caramel) and a cannoli, which literally means "little tube." You can go the distance here, too, by topping off your dinner in traditional Italian style with a digestivo, a glass of grappa or lemoncello.
Virginia's first vintner and a good PR man, Mr. Jefferson himself, suggested that wine brightens the life, and with wine's health benefits now an accepted belief, we can sip without guilt and perhaps brighten our lives while winter passes slowly into spring. S
Bin 22 3200 W. Cary St. 358-4501 Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30-10:30 p.m. (Coffee shop is open daily.)
Enoteca Sogno 2043 W. Broad St. 355-8466 Tuesday-Thursday, 5:30-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5:30-11 p.m.
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