Piacere! at Acquaviva

By on June 25, 2010

Established vineyard now offers Italian bistro, wine tastings, deli, gift shop
by Paula Coughlan
MAPLE PARK—Piacere is an Italian greeting that asks you to enjoy yourself and also is the name of one of the wines at the Acquaviva Winery in Maple Park, owned by the Vito Brandonicios family.

Visitors to the winery, which opened to the public in May, become part of the family and are virtually transported to the Italian town of Aquaviva dela fonti, located at the heel of the boot-shaped Italy, where Brandonicios’ grandfather had vineyards.

The winery features a bistro, a wine-tasting bar, and a delicatessan and gift shop with a variety of sausages, cheeses, olive oil, Italian brands of flour and noodles, sauces, canned tomatoes, wine glasses and utensils, plus a selection of eight family wines and gift baskets.

In the bistro, the casually elegant atmosphere encourages the Italian tradition of lingering to enjoy friends, food and family. Small meals, called assaggini in Italian, are tied directly to the taste of a certain wine.

Wines are listed on the menu with the meals that go best with them. Selections include thin Italian pizzas with fresh ingredients, antipastos, pastas, chicken, filets and shrimp, along with salads, breads and dipping sauce. Among the desserts, made on site, are tiramisu, cannolis, lemon ices and spumoni. Additional seating is available on the patio.

Wine is available by the glass or bottle. At the wine-tasting bar, patrons may sample different varieties.

Vito Brandonicios arrived in Chicago from Italy at age nine. As an adult, he moved his family to Maple Park in 1984 where he began recreating his beloved grandfather’s vineyards. When they constructed the winery building, at first the family was not sure how they wanted to use it.

“We began to design it bit by bit, starting with the ceilings,” Vito’s son, Joey said. “Then we put in the deli, and decided to have a wine tasting bar.”

Then they hired Russian artist Andre Zabella to create a vast domed ceiling of Italian winery paintings at the entrance, a work which took four months to complete.

“We couldn’t do any other construction while the artist was working because the dust would have gotten into the paint,” Joey said.

Acquaviva Winery began posting “open” signs along Route 38 in mid May and the response from the public was immediately positive, the Brandonicios said. As a result, the business will add more parking.

Future plans for the winery also include a downstairs meeting room and possibly a cigar room and space for special events such as weddings. The family also hopes to expand the outside seating area, and offer entertainment and winery tours.

From the vine
Acquaviva Winery produces several different varietals of wine in its Maple Park vineyards, which it must maintain on a daily basis, especially when a lot of rain has fallen, said Joey Brandonicio, of the family-owned business.

“Our vines do well in the Midwest region, but grapes will start to absorb too much water and if they do they can start to split open,” he said. “That is when pests and disease will find them. We inspect the vines regularly as lack of vigilance could loose an entire crop.”

The family was pleased when their first entry into wine competitions at Fingerlakes, New York, resulted in all of their wines winning silver and bronze medals. They have also won gold medals in Illinois competitions.

The winery
11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday;
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday;
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday;
noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.
47W614 Rt. 38, Meredith Road, Maple Park
(630) 365-0333

Photo: A tasting bar at Acquaviva is just one of the features at the winery, which opened to the public in May. The winery also features a bistro, delicatessen, gift shop, outdoor patio and its own vineyard. Courtesy Photo

3 Comments

  1. Starrynight

    June 25, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    I have not yet visited the Winery but I drive past it frequently and there is a significant amount of light pollution from the parking lot lamps. The parking lot can be seen from Keslinger Road! It is odd enough to have a business in the agricultural area but then to allow it to stick out like such a sore thumb was bad planning. I was especially displeased that these lights were on in the middle of night before the place even opened. If they are expanding the parking lot I hope they reconsider the type of lighting, some of us would still like to see the stars.

  2. Little Red Hen

    June 25, 2010 at 7:46 PM

    My husband & I had supper in the bistro overlooking the vineyards. Lovely! Exceptional service, live music, beautiful decor! Met the owner, a very nice man, who took the time to tell us about the winery business & his family history. My husband & son bought cigars in the shop, & I bought a bottle of their fine wine to take home. It’s definitely out of the way, but well worth the drive.

  3. hellostuman

    June 28, 2010 at 9:23 AM

    We’ve been to a number of Illinois/Michigan wineries and I’ve never tasted a local wine that made me want to drink a second one, so I wasn’t expecting a lot out of this wine either. What a pleasant surprise! My wife and I both enjoyed all of the wines we tasted and ended up having a couple of glasses with dinner. Outside of the wine, the place is beautiful, the food is very good and the live music was very enjoyable.

    We’ve been to Italy a few times and the pizza that we had on Friday night brought back wonderful memories of the flat pizza we had for lunch every day at one of the hundreds of little hole in the wall places throughout Rome. What a treat!

    Congratulations to the owner(s) and I hope you have continued success.