This past weekend was my birthday! Yay! So I decided it would be a good time to try something a little upscale, as well as continue my quest to find the best places to drink wine in Rochester. Given that it was also Second Saturday in Rochester (a celebration of art, music and culture in the city, which while super fun and totally worth it all the hassle of finding parking), the Park Ave and Neighborhood of the Arts are jam-packed with people. We settled on a restaurant just slightly away from the hustle and bustle, nestled in an unassuming strip mall.
AVVINO is a fine dining restaurant located on Monroe Ave, between Brighton and Rochester.My initial interest in AVVINO was based solely on the name, based on the term “avvinare”, which is the practice of priming glassware with a small sample of wine by swirling, then discarding it, you know they are serious about their wine drinking here. We’ve seen the avvinare practice quite a bit at wineries, so I was intrigued by a restaurant that claims this as their name. (Quick side note- the reason you do the avvinare practice is because it cleans the glass without leaving a residue, water will actually leave lots of droplets that can change the taste and experience of the wine). It was opened in 2013 by Janine Wasley, who also manages their beverage program. The kitchen and menu is run by Chef Tim Caschette, who fuses upscale American with international and seasonal options.
The starters range from $8-15, and the main courses can vary from $15-20 for vegetarian and sandwich options to $30-40+ for steak and higher end seafood. While a little pricier, the starters and mains are quite substantial, we came away with some delicious leftovers, and probably could have split a main course.
For dinner, we started with a scallop ceviche special starter and a charcuterie that included manchego cheese and iberico ham. I had the salmon with avocado and sweet potato salad, swiss chard, and califlower, and my partner had a porterhouse steak with fingerling potatoes. Everything was delicious and amazing.
I would strongly suggest coming here for a date night or celebration. The environment is fun and upscale, the menu is interesting and diverse, and the staff is incredibly nice and professional. It has the service of a Michelin star restaurant, but isn’t so upscale that you feel uncomfortable or like you need to be in black tie. It is an approachable upscale experience.
AVVINO Wine List
The wine list is impressive, not so much in that its a massive list, but that it includes a great diversity of wines from different regions and sub-regions. By the glass, you could get everything from lesser known Italian whites like Nero D’Avola Bianco, a white wine made from a red grape, or more classic red options like Simi’s Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wines by the glass, sadly, only included one Finger Lakes option: Boundary Breaks “239” Riesling, $10 per glass. I’m a fan of Boundary Breaks’ Dry Riesling because it is bright, crisp, citrus and has a strong level of acidity that is perfect for spicy and flavorful food. I understand that most people in Rochester don’t know of the awesomeness of Finger Lakes wine, but it would have been nice to see at least a red by the glass on the menu (Janine, let me know if you need a few suggestions).
By the bottle, there were a few more options from the Finger Lakes.
- Red Tail Ridge, 2011 Blanc de Noir Brut
- Red Tail Ridge, 2014 Riesling (though I wonder which of the Rieslings it is… semi-dry?)
- Boundary Breaks, 2013 “239” Dry Riesling
- Forge Cellars, 2014 Pinot Noir
All that being said, the rest of the wine menu is fantastic and extremely interesting. If this blog was about wine in general, I probably would have gone for the Chinon from France, a region known for its Cabernet Franc, one of my favorite red varietals. But I’m focusing on the Finger Lakes. #FLX4LIFE! Regardless of my personal attachment to our local wine scenes, it is a fabulous wine menu, and I’ll probably go back to refresh my own memory with European wines.
Because we were celebrating, we had the Red Tail Ridge 2011 Blanc de Noir Brut. It had a wonderful nose of toasted bread, pear, and a slightly floral note. The mouthfeel was creamy and citrusy, with bright acidity and soft bubbles that cleansed the palate. It was a perfect way to celebrate a new year.
Local Wine Overview
Finger Lakes Wine: Yes, but not many options
- White wine by glass
- Red, sparkling and white by the bottle
Price Range: $10 for glass, $36-60 for a bottle
Range of Local Wines by the Glass: Two Rieslings, a sparking and a Pinot Noir
Wine Knowledge: We actually didn’t get the opportunity to chat with our waiter about the wine selections. The Blanc de Blanc had been pre-ordered by my parents as a treat for the table, and the red wine we got with dinner was an old classic that we all knew and loved (not including a review here because it was a California wine). However, the waiter was extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the menu.