House Red wine shop, at 7403 Madison St., is known for its small-batch wines and for the periodic wine tastings and courses it holds; but, now, the store is looking to make more of a splash. It is doing so with House Red Vinoteca: a wine bar it opened in May.
The 30-seat bar is located inside House Red’s current location and it offers patrons a place to relax after a long day, mingle with a few friends, or host a party, all while enjoying some the new fare.
Laura Gonsowski, House Red’s manager, said the wine bar provides a new way for customers to experience the store’s wines and to pair them with some of the food that is served.
“We are offering small plates of food, tapas-style, and wines by the glass,” Gonsowski said.
The small-plates menu includes hummus and bean dip; vegetable spreads; cheese, olives, and charcuterie plates; homemade pancetta macaroni and cheese; and potato croquettes. Most of the food is made in house, but the croquettes come from Taste of Brazil Restaurant in Oak Park.
Gonsowski said one of her favorite dishes was the charcuterie plate, priced at $15. The cured-meat plate is piled high with prosciutto, bresaola, sopressata and cognac chicken liver pate.
Vinoteca’s cheese plates are quickly becoming favorites, as well. One serves up a “creamy, sexy blue, triple cream camembert, and goat’s gouda” for $12; another features the Italian cheeses pecorino with black truffles, parmiggiano reggiano and taleggio.
Three different types of bruschetta are also available – bruschetta is an Italian appetizer typically made with tomatoes, cheese, olive oil and spices, which are served on toasted bread, or crostini. Those on Vinoteca’s menu include one with homemade olive tapenade, roasted red peppers and parmiggiano reggiano; a second with blue cheese, honey and chopped walnuts; and, a third with homemade fig jam, red pears and taleggio cheese (a mild, creamy Italian cheese).
“We also have three desserts on the menu,” Gonsowski said, as she began to list them, “A flourless chocolate cake, a vanilla napoleon cake, and open-faced s’mores, made with stout marshmallows and homemade pretzel graham crackers.”
The desserts are from Cracked Backer and Salted Caramel, two Chicago bakeries.
Gonsowski said that House Red has been mulling the expansion for some time now.
“We had been talking and thinking about expanding the business because of all of the restaurants and bars on Madison Street,” she said. “A wine bar seemed like a better fit for the area.”
Ned Mrvaljevic, House Red’s owner, has always been passionate about wine, and was prompted to open a place on Madison Street in 2006, after he “stumbled” on the commercial strip and saw it was “booming.”
Wine has always been a part of his life, though.
“I am from Serbia, and my great grandfathers in Montenegro were winemakers,” Mrvaljevic said.
The shopkeeper has been here since 1994; he playfully scoffed when asked if he had a favorite wine.
“No such thing as a favorite wine,” Mrvaljevic said. “I like them all.”
Vinoteca serves wines by the glass that range in price from $5 to $9, and wine flights that cost $12. The flights allow guests to sample three 2.5-ounce glasses of either red and or white wines.
The store’s 10 wines by the glass come from Italy, Serbia, South Africa, France, Croatia and Spain; they also have domestic wines from Washington and California. More than a dozen red wines are available by the glass and hail from the abovementioned countries as well as from Argentina and Portugal. Customers can also purchase wine by the bottle and half bottle, and craft beers are available too.
Vinoteca is open from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. from Tuesday through Friday, from noon until 10 p.m. on Saturday, and between noon and 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Fear not, House Red faithful, the wine shop is still going to offer its wine classes, its popular “Meet the Wine Makers” events, and the regular wine tastings it holds on Wednesday and Thursday nights from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m.
Those going to Vinoteca are encouraged to make reservations because of the wine bar’s small size. To make a reservation, or for more information, call 708 771 7733 or visit www.house-red.com
Nick Moroni contributed to this article