On a recent cool norte evening, we visited Vinito Bistro and Wine Bar, one of Cozumel’s newest and most unique establishments.
Vinito is a wonderful new addition to the Cozumel foodie scene. In a location previously reserved for offices and retail, they have transformed the space, creating a sophisticated and inviting break from the hustle of Av 30.
It was late in the evening when we arrived and through the all-glass front, a warm, welcoming glow cast upon the sidewalk and we were instantly greeted by a full view of the back wall, with it’s array of wines displayed. An unmistakable invitation to wine lovers… Come in and taste.
Inside, the space is comfortable and relaxed with rich, warm terracotta and calming neutral cream walls, a painted chalkboard menu and wine bottles placed randomly for decoration, as if to remind you why you’re there. Although it’s a small space, the indoor tables are set far enough apart to ensure some intimacy.
“Excellent artisanal food and wines of great elegance and quality.”Erick Aguirre Ramirez
A couple tables out front provide a space to enjoy a glass under the night sky, while the slightly receded location of the bistro, back from the sidewalk, ensures diners won’t feel claustrophobic with foot traffic or cars going past. On this particular evening, we chose the outdoor option for our group, to take advantage of the evening’s fresh, crisp breeze.
Vinito is open evenings only and although there is no dress code, business-casual was the vibe between the well-presented staff and other customers present.
A server appeared promptly to greet us and ask our seating preference and once seated, we were quickly presented with tableware, a glass of water and some of the the house special bread, made from fermented dough and served with two house made jams, one of yaca fruit (aka. Jackfruit) with rosemary & the other, strawberry with red wine.
Looking at the menu, it was difficult to decide what to eat, so we opted to focus on our wine selection first, choosing a northern Spain Tempranillo, the 2011 Consejo de la Alta, Reserva (Rioja.) A delicious fruit-forward, medium bodied wine. The predominance of red currant gave it a surprising crisp, light feeling in the mouth and ultimately, it paired wonderfully with our food selection.
Originally from Ciudad del Carmen in Campeche, owner and chef Susan Marín Reyes, along with her husband, chef Roberto Chalé, opened Vinito in October 2020, with the goal of providing Cozumeleños an opportunity to taste a wider selection of quality wines from the world. Although there is no sommelier directly on-site, Susan explained they work with accredited sommeliers within the companies they use to select their wines and of course, as trained chefs, they have planned their menu to compliment the choices offered. Regarding their wine selections, Susan told us, “Our wine list is designed with labels that are not found in supermarkets or wine stores on the island, each of the wines has a profile that transports you to the country of origin.” Making Vinito truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
Friendly and Knowledgable
We had plenty of questions for our server Eric, which he happily answered and as we continued to press for more details regarding the wines available (we were asking a lot of questions), he also offered to fetch chef Roberto Chalé for us to give us more information. Roberto seemed more than happy to come outside, welcome us to Vinito and answer our questions as well.
If you are new to the world of wines and have never had an opportunity to do tastings, or learn about varieties of wines, etc., do not fear, you won’t be left on your own to blindly guess at which wine you might enjoy. Vinito’s bilingual staff is knowledgeable and more than happy to offer suggestions and help you make your selection.
Asking Susan about chef’s recommendations, she explained the plan for Vinito is to change their menu periodically and as their wines are brought in from elsewhere, the same ones may not be available at a later date. For this reason, she prefers to avoid any specific recommendations, as diners may be disappointed to arrive and find neither the dish or wine available at that time. Of course, as the two chefs have taken care to plan their menu, “All our dishes are our favourites, our best recommendation is that you visit us and enjoy each one of them, on your visit our staff will make a recommendation of wine according to your preferences.”
Perusing the food menu and unsure of what to try (it all sounds delicious), we admittedly took the easy route and ordered a large Charcuterie board. The board that arrived was impressive, brimming with cheeses; hard, cured, semi-cured and soft, along with a hearty selection of meats, olives, artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper and more. For anyone looking to simply enjoy a glass (or two) with friends or perhaps a date, the Charcuterie board is a recommended option as it allows for easy conversation over relaxed “grazing.” For wine tasting aficionados, there’s always the added fun of trying each item, tasting and comparing it’s pairing with whatever wine you’ve chosen.
With items such as beef carpaccio with portobello and truffle oil, Vinito’s beautifully presented charcuterie boards, their fresh ciabatta sandwiches packed with meats, cheeses and fresh greens, or their pastas and pizzas, the mouthwatering menu is 100% handmade, with each dish having been created by these two chefs, carefully and always with the goal of being paired with a good wine. The most difficult part of the evening was deciding what to choose from the delicious items offered. Vinito’s offerings will make you want to return, time and time again.
Speaking with Susan, she is particularly proud of their ancestral technique bread products, explaining the dough masses are “…fermented for 72 hours and made with 30% wholemeal flour, making them easy to digest and unique. “ You can try their bread with the wonderful sandwiches they offer. A sandwich and wine? Absolutely! This is not your Mom’s ham and cheese.
Time for Another Look
Having had such a great first experience, it was an easy and quick decision to return and sample more of the food menu. It was simply too appealing and after all, how can a thorough restaurant review be written with only having had a Charcuterie board? Ah, the woeful pains of a food writer.
For our second visit, we again chose the outdoor seating. I noted it was slightly busier for traffic, being a Saturday night but that still isn’t a detractor as the tables are set far enough back from the street.
Eric was our waiter once more and he recognized us from our previous visit. Again, we were quickly presented with water and table settings. We had already decided before arriving what items we were interested in but we had not selected which specific dish we’d like, so once more, we opted to choose our wine first.
On this visit, we opted for a three varietal red Chilean blend from Casas Patronales. The CP TriVarietal is a artful, un-oaked blend of Syrah, Malbec and Viognier varieties. The colour is a rich, intense plum. Floral and black fruit on the nose, the flavour is clean, rich with berry and low tannin though the predictable warm chest punch of the Malbec follows. Any Syrah, Malbec or Merlot fans would likely enjoy this blend.
Our food choice was the Buenos Aires wood fire oven pizza (with provolone cheese, Argentinian chorizo, cherry tomatoes and fresh spinach) along with a arrachera Chapatas. Chapatas are ciabatta with fillings and the arrachera comes with roasted vegetables, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and fresh spinach. Although similar with ingredients, they could not have tasted more different. The Chapata tasted more of the rich, earthiness of the roasted vegetables, while the pizza was a perfect blend of the sauce, crust and chorizo. Both paired well with the wine and were easily shared for our food-wine pairing enjoyment. Eric suggested a macha salsa to try along with the dishes, for added heat and flavour and it was an excellent addition. Bringing an added heat but not without good flavour.
Another excellent option is the Albóndigas de Arrachera pizza, with it’s small meatballs of Arrachera and for an appetizer, for the cheese lover amongst you, the Queso Fundido, made with Provolone, Argentinian Chorizo and a reduction of dark beer. Both these options we paired with a glass of the house Carménère (pron: car-men-nair), a medium bodied red wine, light in tannins and proving to be an excellent companion to both dishes.
Having had several wood fire oven pizzas on the island, the Buenos Aires pizza from Vinito has instantly taken first place. The crust is perfection. Not so crunchy as to be difficult on the teeth and yet not soft or doughy in any way and still easily foldable for those who do this. The sauce was absolute deliciousness and was used in perfect proportion. It will not be long before we’ve returned to try more of them and they are a definite Deliciosa recommendation.
Wine, wine and more wine
Naturally, for true wine aficionados, the next most obvious question is, “Are there tastings offered?” At this time, there are not (CoVID restrictions do not support this), however Vinito does have future plans and ideas, so be sure to follow them on Facebook and/or Instagram to keep up with their updates and until then, grab a friend, a lover – or perhaps someone you want to be in one of these categories – and impress them with your good taste by suggesting this wine-lovers, island gem.
Vinito is easily a destination for that first, special date, or any romantic date for that matter. It’s also the perfect place for a small gathering of friends. If you’re all about the wine, aficionados could easily plan for an evening with Vinito’s different wine options by the glass or in bottles and select dishes for pairings, either on your own, or with the input of staff.
Reservations are recommended. This is a relatively small location and tables will fill up quickly as more people hear of it and choose it for dinner. Want a little more privacy? There are two tables out front and they are the perfect spot for enjoying the fresh air (weather permitting) and also keeping some distance between you and other diners. It’s also the perfect for pushing the two tables together, if available, for a somewhat larger group.
Wondering how formal it is? You’ll fit in with casual dress but business-casual would certainly not be out of place, and would perhaps fit the ambiance a bit more. And if you’re planning a special celebration, you wouldn’t look out of place if dressed slightly more formal either.
If you’re a pizza fan, definitely consider trying one of Vinito’s wood fire pizzas. Oh yes friends, pizza and wine has just become a thing. And remember, if you’re uncertain what to wine to select, choose your dish first and then ask staff for their wine recommendations. ¡Buen provecho!
Vinito is found on Ave. 30, just north of Calle 2. In the plaza that sits on the east side of that corner.
Service available in English and Spanish
Click here for Vinito’s Facebook page
Instagram Vinito Bistro & Wine Bar
987 146 2456
Photo contributions by Vinito and Gerick Arellano
Take a look at our previous articles, for more information about wine varietals.
Red wine varieties “Red, Red Wine”
White wine varieties “White Gold”