I have always seen Secco Wine Bar in Carytown, but not been sure what it was about. Did it only have wine? Does it serve meals or just hors d'oeuvres? Most wine bars have food, but I hadn't heard of anything about it.

Last year for the French Film Festival, there was a reception there for all of the French actors, directors and producers. I was there as well, since I was working at the festival, and there was plenty of wine and some hors d'oeuvres in their private party room that we rented. Everything was delicious, but I did not know if they also served meals.

I saw their name on the Restaurant Week list and made my way down there. They don't take reservations, but I called ahead to ask about their availability and they were very gracious and said they would have a table ready for us. The restaurant is small, which makes the atmosphere intimate and welcoming. The waiters expertly navigated around the tables and did not make me feel claustrophobic at all. We sat down and looked at the handwritten list of their wines for the night above the bar. Our waitress answered our questions and clearly had a great deal of knowledge on the wines they were serving. After speaking with us for a bit, she said she knew a wine we would love, and she was right--it was exactly what we were looking for.

As for the meal... I loved it. For the first course, my friend and I split a selection of cheeses and cured meats, and roasted mushroom soup. The selection came with a choice of one meat and one cheese, so we chose costwald chive cheddar and olli calabrese salametto, which were served with homemade fruit chutney, homemade whole grain mustard and a basket of toasted bread. It was all fantastic and the waitress was also very knowledgeable and helpful when we were choosing. The soup had lemon oil and billy bread croutons on top. The lemon oil gave an interesting, refreshing flavor to the heavy and hearty mushroom soup, and I absolutely loved it. It was almost like a surprise at the end of each bite.

We had a hard time choosing which main courses to order. For Restaurant Week, most restaurants will only give you two or three choices per course, but Secco had five choices for the second course, and they all sounded amazing. So once again, we needed our waitress' help, and then ordered chicken confit and black lentils. I was skeptical about the lentils because I didn't think they would have a lot flavor, but I was proved wrong. They were served with roasted carrots, pickled beets, caramelized endive and beet butter. The vegetables were clearly farm-fresh and carefully chosen. The dish itself was light and healthful, but still provided that feeling of eating a filling meal. The chicken confit was served with mustard-braised cabbage, polenta and herb juice. The chicken was incredibly flavorful and savory. Once again, the dish surprised me and was making me crave even more. The portions were very nicely sized, leaving enough room for dessert without feeling too full.

For dessert, we split dark chocolate creme brulee and open-faced apple pie in puff pastry with cinnamon gelato. I am normally a chocolate girl (and don't get me wrong--the creme brulee was great), but the apple pie blew me away. The cinnamon gelato was paired seamlessly, and the apples were perfectly soft with a light crunch.

I would recommend Secco Wine Bar to anyone; you do not have to drink wine to enjoy yourself there. It did look as though they had some good drink specials for happy hour, which is always a good thing. All of the food was even more delicious than I expected and we had a great experience. I will definitely be making my way down there again soon.

Contact reporter Sarah Stewart at sarah.stewart@richmond.edu