Established vineyard now offers Italian bistro, wine tastings, deli, gift shop
by Paula Coughlan
MAPLE PARKâ€”Piacere is an Italian greeting that asks you to enjoy yourself and also is the name of one of the wines at the Acquaviva Winery in Maple Park, owned by the Vito Brandonicios family.
Visitors to the winery, which opened to the public in May, become part of the family and are virtually transported to the Italian town of Aquaviva dela fonti, located at the heel of the boot-shaped Italy, where Brandoniciosâ€™ grandfather had vineyards.
The winery features a bistro, a wine-tasting bar, and a delicatessan and gift shop with a variety of sausages, cheeses, olive oil, Italian brands of flour and noodles, sauces, canned tomatoes, wine glasses and utensils, plus a selection of eight family wines and gift baskets.
In the bistro, the casually elegant atmosphere encourages the Italian tradition of lingering to enjoy friends, food and family. Small meals, called assaggini in Italian, are tied directly to the taste of a certain wine.
Wines are listed on the menu with the meals that go best with them. Selections include thin Italian pizzas with fresh ingredients, antipastos, pastas, chicken, filets and shrimp, along with salads, breads and dipping sauce. Among the desserts, made on site, are tiramisu, cannolis, lemon ices and spumoni. Additional seating is available on the patio.
Wine is available by the glass or bottle. At the wine-tasting bar, patrons may sample different varieties.
Vito Brandonicios arrived in Chicago from Italy at age nine. As an adult, he moved his family to Maple Park in 1984 where he began recreating his beloved grandfatherâ€™s vineyards. When they constructed the winery building, at first the family was not sure how they wanted to use it.
â€œWe began to design it bit by bit, starting with the ceilings,â€ Vitoâ€™s son, Joey said. â€œThen we put in the deli, and decided to have a wine tasting bar.â€
Then they hired Russian artist Andre Zabella to create a vast domed ceiling of Italian winery paintings at the entrance, a work which took four months to complete.
â€œWe couldnâ€™t do any other construction while the artist was working because the dust would have gotten into the paint,â€ Joey said.
Acquaviva Winery began posting â€œopenâ€ signs along Route 38 in mid May and the response from the public was immediately positive, the Brandonicios said. As a result, the business will add more parking.
Future plans for the winery also include a downstairs meeting room and possibly a cigar room and space for special events such as weddings. The family also hopes to expand the outside seating area, and offer entertainment and winery tours.
From the vine
Acquaviva Winery produces several different varietals of wine in its Maple Park vineyards, which it must maintain on a daily basis, especially when a lot of rain has fallen, said Joey Brandonicio, of the family-owned business.
â€œOur vines do well in the Midwest region, but grapes will start to absorb too much water and if they do they can start to split open,â€ he said. â€œThat is when pests and disease will find them. We inspect the vines regularly as lack of vigilance could loose an entire crop.â€
The family was pleased when their first entry into wine competitions at Fingerlakes, New York, resulted in all of their wines winning silver and bronze medals. They have also won gold medals in Illinois competitions.
11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday;
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday;
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday;
noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.
47W614 Rt. 38, Meredith Road, Maple Park
Photo: A tasting bar at Acquaviva is just one of the features at the winery, which opened to the public in May. The winery also features a bistro, delicatessen, gift shop, outdoor patio and its own vineyard. Courtesy Photo