Old Vines Naples At Mercato Opening This Fall

Old Vines makes its debut in North Naples at Mercato this fall! Haute Living Naples had the opportunity to sit down with the owners, Jon Ellms and Rick Taranto, and managing director and partner Brooke Kravetz to discuss their upcoming restaurant.

Haute Living: Tell me about the history of Old Vines?

Jon Ellms: Yes, Old Vines started in 2009 as a wine bar in Kennebunk. It later became a wine and cocktail bar and then evolved into a restaurant. Brooke started her career here as a chef. We purchased it in 2015 because we loved it and didn’t want to see it close.

We were part-time residents here in Kennebunk, and eventually we moved full time. We both have jobs in other industries. Rick works in scientific research and I work in pharmaceutical marketing. We moved here full time in 2020, right around the time of the COVID pandemic.

HL: Brooke, you started working as a chef at Old Vines in Kennebunk in 2010, right after the wine bar opened? 

Brooke Kravetz: Yes, I started doing a bit of everything and then took over in the kitchen. Back then, the entire kitchen was just a server station right next to the bar. We served paninis, a few nice salads, a flatbread or two, small tapas bites, cheese and charcuterie, and chicken meatballs, which are still among our top sellers today.

HL: In 2023, you began an exciting project. You envisioned and created the Old Vines Supper Club, a unique concept in Naples that elevated our local culinary scene to a new level. Could you share how you came up with this concept?

BK: Naples is a town of fine dining. Our aim is to offer a unique dining experience that is intimate and elegant, but not stuffy. The plan had been on my mind for a decade. I wanted to create a small space serving tasting menus, chef’s tasting menus in particular, with a strong focus on seasonal and local ingredients. Considering the timeframe and ongoing events, it seemed like the perfect time to launch.

HL: Tell us about the new location, Old Vines Naples Mercato. What’s the design concept and what will the menu be like?

Rick Taranto: The design will be sexy and timeless. 

BK: We’re incorporating similar design elements from the original location, like the colors and the intimate, slightly dark interiors. This contrasts with the bright white interiors common in Florida. Features such as red velvet curtains and some of our favorite artwork will be brought in from the old location.

RT: A lot of the furniture is built by a local artisan, Americana furniture in Kennebunk, including bar tops and tabletops made of reclaimed barn wood. We are investing in a Hestan line in the kitchen that is flawless. Thomas Keller uses it in all of his restaurants. We want to attract the best of the best. Our style and food is clean and elegant.

JE: The light fixtures were inspired by the wine museum, La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux. We aim to do things a little differently, adding some unique and cheeky touches.

HL: What is the space like at Old Vines Mercato?

BK: Our indoor dining room seats about 80. We have three different experiences at Mercato, including a sunny front patio with umbrellas, a secluded side alleyway with tall planters and nice lighting, and an indoor area with darker interiors. The outdoor spaces can be rented for private parties. The restaurant seats approximately 180 people.

HL: Will there be a bar or a place to sit and watch the chefs at work?

BK: Yes, we have a 16-seat bar and a chef counter with six seats. You’ll be able to watch as food is being prepared and plated. We also have a station for oysters, chilled seafood, cheese, and charcuterie boards.

HL: You are all between Kennebunk, ME and Naples, FL?

BK: Yes. So right now, it is summertime here in Kennebunk. We’re obviously cranking up here for the summer. We have been making a couple of trips back and forth and making sure that the renovations are going well. We have an amazing management team at the Old Vines Supper Club. They’re just cranking away, and also still doing all the wine dinners every week and getting ready for the opening of Old Vines Naples at Mercato. 

Owners, Rick Taranto and John Ellms and managing director and partner Brooke Kravetz

HL:  What is the vibe of the Old Vines Mercato?

JE: I think we’re trying to keep it similar to Old Vines Wine Bar, which is a rustic barn, but it’s a newer building down there, so similar pallets, but it’ll be more of a contemporary design with more sparkle.

RT: It’ll feel familiar to our guests. Not the same, but elevated. Each restaurant fits its own identity and location.

JE: The Mercato location will be closer to the Old Vines Wine Bar in terms of the menu and a la carte and there will be a great cocktail list and a great wine list, but it will also be different. We try to cater to the local tastes and clientele and sourcing as much as we possibly can locally. The wine list will be different, but similar.

HL: Let’s dive into the menu. What should guests expect?

BK: Absolutely. The way I’ve been describing the food is that it is going to be similar to the Old Vines Supper Club in terms of sourcing locally. In terms of the menu format, it will be a little bit similar to the Old Vines Wine Bar in Kennebunk. The style of the dishes would be a lot of the smaller plates like we do here, and also at the Supper Club on the five-course tasting menu, but just in an a la carte format to try a few different dishes if you want. We brought on an amazing executive chef, Dan Swofford. We’re working on the menu. He was most recently at The Cave Bistro & Wine Bar, and prior to that, he was at The Painted Lady Restaurant in Oregon wine country, and worked at Eleven Madison Park, Dovetail, and Modern at the Museum of Modern Art. One of our sous chefs who is at the Supper Club right now is going to be his right hand up there at Mercato. And then we’re working hard on staffing. We have a great team to start. Hopefully, we’ll see some of our team from up here in Kennebunk coming down in the winter and vice versa.

Chef Dan will also be doing all the savory menu items at Mercato. We’ll have about 10 different options for both cheeses and charcuterie. You can mix and match to create your own boards.

Chicken Meatballs

HL: Do you have any specific dishes that guests can get excited about?

BK: Absolutely. One thing we have always had on the menu is a braised short rib ravioli. We’ll have some sort of pasta on the menu, so there will be two or three pastas that will rotate seasonally, maybe even weekly. Our chicken meatballs will be coming down to Naples, and possibly dishes like our crab and cucumber, carpaccio, or the tuna tartare. For entrées, we’re working on a pork chop dish. We are also using local fish and working on a tilefish dish as well as a potential red snapper or black grouper dish.

We will be unveiling a late-night menu from 10pm – 12am with our signature chicken meatballs, a tartine, paninis, one or two lighter salads, and oysters.

Short Rib Ravioli

HL: What does the dessert menu look like at Old Vines Naples at Mercato?

BK: Corie, our pastry chef, is handling the desserts for our Supper Club, and she’ll also be managing the desserts full-time at our Mercato location. It’s rare to find restaurants with in-house pastry shops around here. Corie will be changing the dessert menu seasonally, with at-least 50 to 60% of the menu shifting every two to three months. We’re investing a lot of time and energy into making our program as unique as possible, including our cocktail offerings. 

Smoked Chocolate and Marshmallow

HL: Will there be any gluten-free or vegan options on the menu? 

BK: Of-course. We’ve always accommodated dietary restrictions. Most of our dishes are naturally gluten-free, and we have plenty of vegan and vegetarian options as well.

HL: How will the wine program at Old Vines Naples at Mercato cater to the wine community and collectors in Naples?

BK: Our wine and spirits director, Zach Bingham, comes from the distribution side. He has worked at The Cave Bistro & Wine Bar and has done a lot of other things in the wine world. Our wine lockers, crafted in New Hampshire, have been shipped down and are climate controlled. The wine will be stored at 55 degrees and properly ready to drink. Wine locker holders will receive discounts, first invites to special events at Mercato and Supper Club, members-only, quarterly tastings, and notifications of highly sought-after wines available for purchase. We might also schedule larger wine dinners, especially in the winter. For smaller, private parties or rehearsal dinners, we would direct those to the Supper Club, which comfortably seats 30 people.

We’re also in the process of building a nice wine cellar that will hold about 500 bottles and is temperature controlled as well. We will have domestic imports all around the world. We definitely like to do more eclectic picks. We will definitely appeal to the Naples crowd that wants your oaky Cabernet and Chardonnay, along with a lot of other import options and old-world options that are fun varietals that we are rediscovering.

HL: Will you have biodynamic options and wines from small vineyards?

JE: We primarily work with small family vineyards, and we want our wine list to be unique. The prior owner believed that under-appreciated grapes and, small vineyards offer surprisingly good value. It is about knowing where to scout. For example, there are great producers in Austria and Lebanon.

RT: We want to create an opportunity for our staff to educate our guests and try something new. We want to make it fun, exciting, and new.

HL: So, the wine list at Old Vines Naples at Mercato will be different from most of the restaurants in Naples?

BK: Wine is at the heart of our operation. We can store and present 500 different bottles. At least half of that will be underrepresented regions, grapes, and winemakers, and smaller family production. But we’ll also offer familiar staples as well. Wine tastes are different in Florida and Maine, and we’ll tailor our wine cellar to appeal to both.

Old Vines Mercato is slated for a fall grand opening and will be open seven days a week from 1pm–5pm for late lunch offering, 5–10pm for dinner service, and 10–12am for a late night menu.

For reservations or more information visit: https://oldvineswinebar.com/supperclub Old Vines Supper Club is currently open Tuesday – Saturday from 5:00 p.m – 10:00 p.m. Located 2795 Davis Blvd Naples, Florida 34104.