By Elena Kadvany
Palo Alto's Vina Enoteca reopens with Italian market and Basuku Cheesecakes pop-upUploaded: Nov 5, 2020
Three months after pressing pause on dine-in service at Vina Enoteca, the Palo Alto Italian restaurant is reopening with a new market, pop-ups and a more casual pizza and pasta concept.
Vina Mercato, an Italian market with imported and housemade specialty items, will open today, Thursday, Nov. 5, inside the 700 Welch Road restaurant. Look for imported goods from small producers in Italy — fresh prosciutto, guanciale from Tuscany, a pecorino cheese from Sardinia that Scordella said is outstanding, a wood-aged balsamic vinegar produced by Michelin-starred Italian chef Massimo Bottura — as well as wine, housemade sauces, fresh pastas and frozen pizzas. Vina Mercato will be open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The new Vina Mercato, opening inside Vina Enoteca in Palo Alto on Nov. 5. Photo courtesy Rocco Scordella.
The restaurant will also resume serving fresh pizzas for takeout today. They're available for pickup or delivery Thursday-Saturday, 5-8:30 p.m.
Starting this Friday, Nov. 6, Charles Chen of Basuku Cheesecakes will sell his wildly popular and hard-to-get Japanese-inspired Basque cheesecakes at Vina Enoteca. Every Friday at 10 a.m., 10 cheesecakes will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis in person at Vina Enoteca (no pre-ordering on Instagram). Chen is now based out of the Vina Enoteca kitchen and hopes to increase production, he wrote in a recent Instagram post.
The much sought-after Basuku cheesecake will now be available on Fridays at Vina Enoteca. Photo by Elena Kadvany.
Another popular pop-up will also be moving to Vina Enoteca: Local baker John Shelsta of Love For Butter will now sell his pastries and breads there on Saturdays. (He will no longer be baking out of Zola in Palo Alto, where customers have been able to pick up his baked goods the last few months.) Shelsta has also taken over the Vina Enoteca baking program and is making the fresh focaccia, baguettes and loaves that will be sold at the market.
In a couple of weeks, Vina Enoteca will reopen with indoor and outdoor seating to serve pastas and pizzas, keeping the menu casual, "accessible" and "family friendly," Scordella said. This is also driven by COVID economics: It's no longer financially feasible to run a 200-seat restaurant with 68 employees and serve entrees with tight margins, he said.
Vina Enoteca's 7,000-square-foot dining room, pictured in 2017. Palo Alto Weekly file photo.
Vina Enoteca will continue to offer virtual wine tastings and cooking classes, which Scordella hopes to host in person when safe to do so.
"It's about building different revenue streams," Scordella said.
When the restaurant reopens, he's making another notable but less visible change: a 20% service charge that will be shared equally between front- and back-of-house workers. The goal is to address the inequity of tipping, which allows waiters and bartenders to earn more than kitchen staff.
"I think it's time for a change," Scordella said about tipping.