Food & Drink: Review: Cooking From the Heart
Fabio Perricelli curates the perfect dinner at VINIA. What he may not realize is that he’s perhaps the most charming part of the experience.
Have you met Fabio Perricelli? If not, you may want to make a reservation at VINIA.
Tucked away in Hannibal Square, VINIA embodies the perfect intimate, Winter Park date night. Low lighting, cozy seating and a pink neon bar create an effortlessly romantic setting, while an incredible selection of wine and authentic Italian and Brazilian dishes add the finishing touches to the experience.
But perhaps the most charming aspect of the restaurant is the owner himself.
SO, WHO’S FABIO?
Fabio is “a food lover, not a chef.”
Technically, he’s VINIA’s co-owner, alongside wife Paula Perricelli.
But he’s so much more. He’s also a table-busser. A server. A greeter.
Throughout the evening, you’ll catch Fabio working the space, speaking to guests, and touching every part of the experience. He even washes his own dishes. Fabio is so involved in VINIA’s operation that if he’s not present, the restaurant will close.
“We do as we do in Europe—family vacation,” he said. “I like to be here every day.”
VINIA drew inspiration from Fabio’s fond memories of having lunch with his dad. They’d visit a restaurant for lunch, stay to talk throughout the afternoon, and then order dinner.
With a dream to open their own restaurant with the same feel, Fabio and Paula searched across Central and South Florida for the ideal location, but ultimately didn’t find what they’d envisioned. Right before returning home, they unexpectedly discovered Winter Park. It was love at first sight.
Fabio was enamored with the idea of a place with a lot of foot traffic, similar to Park Avenue, which offered a “street restaurant” instead of a “plaza restaurant.” The only barrier was the price.
Each morning, he would visit a new street in the Winter Park area, searching for the perfect location. When he settled on Hannibal Square, former supporters said he was crazy and that the leases were less expensive due to the slow demand in the area. Fabio wouldn’t be deterred.
“I believed in myself and my idea,” he said.
Now, the entrance to the space feels the constant flow of visitors, either stopping in for a drink at the bar or inquiring about the next available table.
It’s this sense of close-knit community that inspired Fabio’s Table.
“I always believed that food is like fire; it brings people together,” Fabio said.
His passion for the restaurant is perhaps why the “Fabio’s Table” experience is so well-received. The multi-course, themed wine pairing and dinner experience is held on a few weekend nights each month, where guests are seated at their own private tables. In light of the pandemic landscape, this gives the illusion of a chef’s table without the close contact of a communal gathering.
Throughout the evening, guests have the pleasure (truly) of engaging with Fabio, who shares tasting notes and stories, as he would with guests around his own table. The experience is $125 per person with wine pairings, $85 without. Reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance.
Can’t make it to a Fabio’s Table event? Fear not. As a complement to the intimate offering, the VINIA Favorites menu features dishes from the Fabio’s Table event through a three-course meal with wine pairings. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, it’s set to the tune of live music. The menu took shape amid the onset of the pandemic when the communal chef’s table event was being reimagined.
“You don’t have to come any special time or day,” Fabio said. “Every night can be a special night.”
The evening begins with a first-course selection of either warm bread with burrata and purple and green pesto or Romeu & Julieta (Brazilian cheese bread with guava sauce). The former is paired with a light white wine, the latter with a red. My compliments to Paula, as the cheese bread is her family rcipe. These little bites are the culinary equivalent of happiness, and I will not be convinced otherwise.
For the main course, guests can try the pan-roasted Catch of the Day with Asparagus Mousse and Lemon Confit Cake (paired with white wine) or a hearty house-made Pasta with 24-hour braised Oxtail (paired with red). For the second, I’d suggest asking for more bread to soak in the remaining jus before finishing your meal. Fabio assured us that you can’t ever “ask an Italian for too much bread.”
The evening closes with three decadent desserts: Affogato (vanilla gelato with caramel espresso), Cuscuz Tapioca (tapioca and coconut soft pudding with dark coconut and caramel) and Pot de Creme au Chocolat (rich chocolate custard with Chantilly creme and sea salt). Each dessert comes with an associated wine pairing. It’ll leave you wondering how you ever settled for a meal with only one dessert when you could have been enjoying three.
It’s worth mentioning that your wine pairings will not be determined by VINIA’s supplier recommendation, as is often the case in many restaurants.
“I do the pairing that I would do for myself and that I would love,” Fabio said. “It’s never a pairing that my supplier offers to me. I always choose what wine would fit best.”
OPTIONS FOR ALL
In addition to the multi-course meals, guests can also enjoy a regular menu with shareable plates like empanadas, flatbreads, Paula’s incredible cheese bread, and more, plus hearty pasta dishes and a limited selection of items from the Fabio’s Table menu, based upon availability.
For guests who prefer to enjoy plant-based options, Fabio goes the extra mile. Unlike restaurants that offer a limited selection of dishes or create plant-based options with few ingredients, Fabio reimagines the dish entirely.
“I don’t just take ingredients out,” he said. “I do a different dish with the same concept.”
Expect options like Pasta con Zucchine e Pomodorini, vegan Affogato and Cuscuz De Tapioca Com Calda.
No matter which dining experience you choose, a meal at VINIA will feel as though you’re dining in Fabio’s own home kitchen.
“Everything that I do, I do with my heart,” Fabio said.
Vinia offers an ever-changing menu, based upon seasonal availability. Dishes may vary from what we have described here.
Vinia Wine & Kitchen
444 W. New England Ave., Ste 119