The Collegian
Monday, May 16, 2022

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To dine or not to dine: Secco Wine Bar

Carytown prides itself on offering off-beat shops and eateries to satisfy those of us who aren't content with Chipotle or Panera Bread, and who are looking for something closer to campus. You've got CanCan Brasserie for French, Nacho Mama's for Mexican, Amici for fine Italian and a handful of great seafood, diner, brunch and American options to boot. Secco Wine Bar fits right in with Carytown's European restaurent feel with its variety of small dish offerings. Secco Wine Bar is operated by River City Cellars, the internationally stocked wine shop right next door, which allows Secco the luxurious wine list that pairs so perfectly with its dishes.

A small dining room greets you as you enter Secco with several wall-side wooden tables parallel to a full bar that can also seat a group for dining. The atmosphere is extremely casual yet somehow chic, perhaps solely by virtue of being a wine bar. My waitress was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, very friendly and extremely knowledgeable both times I dined at Secco. A unique mural is the crowning jewel over the bar, abstractly illustrating some of the concepts operating behind the scenes at Secco that differentiate it.

One of the advantages of eating at Secco is the diner's ability to try multiple dishes and share with friends. Artisanal wines and craft beers whet the palate for farmstead cheeses, traditional charcuterie and all other house-made delicious items. Small plates give way to larger dishes that are meant for sharing and others that resemble more traditional entrees.

Both times I've dined at Secco Wine Bar I couldn't resist the cheeses and cured meats. My favorites being the delice de Bourgogne, which is a white cow's milk cheese from France, the idiazabal, a white sheep's milk cheese from Spain and the prosciutto from right here in Virginia. The cheeses and cured meats are a generous serving accompanied by crostini, a spicy plum chutney and red onion marmalade.

I've also enjoyed the blue cheese stuffed fried green olives which are make a briny treat that is perfect to share with the table. The fried chickpeas with Aleppo pepper and sea salt are another unique dish. The outside of the peas gets crispy while the inside stays creamy and soft. Each of these are like bar snacks elevated to a higher plateau. The fried zucchini blossoms are another star on the menu. Zucchini blossoms, the flower of the zucchini plant, are stuffed with velvety ricotta cheese, battered and fried to a crispy golden brown and smothered in a delicious basil sauce.

Wines are served by the glass, 3 or 6 ounces, or the bottle. Many bottles are less than $30 although there are several more costly bottles available as well. Small plates are all less than $12 with many dishes in the $6 to $8 range. There is even a prix fix lunch menu with three courses for $10. The items on the dinner menu are priced fairly as well.

In my opinion, the best way to enjoy Secco's menu and drink offerings are for an early dinner or afternoon snack when you're in the mood to taste several different dishes and sip on nice glass of wine. Secco feels posh without being pretentious. The small wine bar can definitely hold its own in the food category as well and is well worth the short trip to Carytown.

Contact reporter Brigid Beitel at brigid.beitel@richmond.edu.

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