First Look: Vino Veritas Winery Wine Bar

Anthony Nunes has been dreaming about opening an Italian-themed wine bar since he was in high school. Don't believe him? Next to his name in the 1986 North High School yearbook reads the following passage: "Future plans: own an Italian restaurant."

But that dream would have to wait 20-plus years while Nunes pursued a career in marketing. That was until four years ago, when Nunes relocated to his beloved neighborhood of Little Italy. "I love Little Italy," he says. "My parents are from Sicily and this was the neighborhood for me."

Nunes quickly became "one of the boys," becoming a popular face in Murray Hill. Throughout it all, he kept his ears and eyes alert to any developments that would allow him to further his goal. "Little Italy is the ultimate place for an Italian wine bar," he says, "I knew this was the place for my dream."

By chance, Nunes met the owner of a vacant retail building right in the heart of Murray Hill. Acting fast, Nunes worked his hardest to charm the landlord. "Everyone in the city wanted this space, but the landlord liked my vision and rented me the space," he explains.

With the support his father, Peter, Nunes spent two years building out his dream. Then, 27 years in the making, Vino Veritas opened in late March. In Latin the names translates to "In wine there is truth." "Everyone loves wine and the name says it all," says the proud owner.

From a design standpoint, Vino Veritas is elegant and comfortable. The 1903 space features copper-colored tin ceilings that reflect warmly off the hardwood floors. Exposed brick walls are accented by hand painted murals, including one of the Nunes family villa in Sicily. The 14-seat bar top is embedded with thousands of wine corks. In the cozy dining area, wood tables shaped like puzzle pieces can be used individually or pushed together to form one long table.

The international wine list offers a nice selection of wines from Italy, France, Germany and Chile alongside dozens from the U.S. Sparkling and ice wines join craft beers and martinis to round out the list. Approximately 50 wines are available by the glass and an equal number by the bottle.   

A wine-friendly menu includes small plates and snacks like flat breads, cheese and meat boards, salads and paninis. The Sicilian flat bread features house-tossed dough topped with caramelized mushrooms, onions and ricotta cheese. In another starter, steamed asparagus and provolone cheese are wrapped with prosciutto and baked until crisp on the outside and melted within. Potato pancakes are topped with smoked salmon and garnished with red onions, capers and horseradish sauce.

In the way of daily live entertainment, the bar boasts everything from opera singers to pianists, who tickle the ivories of the baby grand piano tucked in the corner. The cozy umbrella-shaded patio provides an outdoor perch for wine lovers. 

A lower level, outfitted with a vintage wine press and French and American oak barrels, will be utilized in any number of wine-related ways, says Nunes. "We will host wine classes, private bottlings and small events," he says. "In the next few weeks we will be releasing our own bottled wine and we'll be vinting in the fall. We are one of a kind for Cleveland. This is a winery-wine bar!"

Down the road, Nunes hopes to share his love for making wine with others. An offsite cellar in Little Italy will allow him to do just that.

"The plan is to allow customers the opportunity to learn how to make wine in barrels," he says. "Then let them bottle it and customize the label with their family name."