While there are many places in the area to purchase wine, restaurants and pubs that serve wine and even places to make your own wine, there is now a place that is offering a European style wine bar right in your own backyard.
And it all began with a phone call.
An ongoing, seemingly hypothetical conversation turned into a 30-second phone call, and in an instant a business was born.
That’s how Maria Baniel, owner of the new Café & Wine Bar at Restaurant Village, recalls her month-old business taking off.
A Long Valley resident for 20 years and unabashed wine lover, Baniel came from a life of electrical engineering, which went on hold when she became a full time stay-at-home mom for 10 years.
The first-generation Italian has traveled extensively through Europe with her family, always enjoying the cafes and foreign wines offered.
“I always felt Long Valley needed a place like this,” Baniel said.
The conversation began years ago, when Baniel and her neighbor, Arkady Belkin, jokingly discussed opening their own café. Belkin, from Latvia, is a chef who had his own restaurant in Sparta.
In October 2012, Baniel was boarding a flight to California when her cell phone rang. It was Belkin with some intriguing news.
“He asked if I could speak, and I told him I only had a few seconds,” Baniel said. “He told me Maria’s Cafe was closing down, and the store front was going to be available, but the owners needed a decision right away.”
Between the time Baniel boarded the plane and the wheels left the runway, she became a first-time business owner.
In just two months Baniel redesigned the space, created a menu with Belkin serving bistro-style foods, and crafted a list of available local and imported brews and wines by the glass.
Currently, the Café has wine offerings from Spain and Italy among its 40 on hand. It’s not a place where White Zinfandel will top the list, and beer drinkers seeking Budweiser-style flavors will come up empty–as the bar offers 20 craft brews.
“It’s diverse but approachable wines and beers,” Baniel said.
Wine is available by the glass or bottle, and to say prices are fair is an understatement. A single glass of wine can be had for as low as $6, and beers range from $4 to $7 per bottle.
Customers enjoy the look and idea of the young business thus far, Baniel said. The Café, at some point, will also offer wine and beer tasting events. The bistro-style foods vary from Tuna Tartar to Meat Dumplings and Grilled Baby Lamb Lollipops, ranging from $6 to $12.
Taking the leap from full time mom to business owner doesn’t seem to faze Baniel, either, citing her love for the product as the catalyst.
“We wanted to capture a little bit of Europe in Long Valley,” she said. “Let’s just have fun with it. Let’s keep it going. At the very least we can say we tried it.”
Lunch is available at The Café & Wine Bar at 5 West Mill Road Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner is available Thursday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. and is closed Sundays.