Gino's Grill - La Cantina Sociale 

Gino's: Grill Going, Ristorante Staying

News of last week's closing of Gino's Grill trickled into BW offices just before the holiday weekend and instantly produced a panic. The good news is it's not all bad news. The grill will leave its second-floor Capital Terrace location to set up shop in Meridian's Bridge Tower business complex, but Gino's Italian Ristorante—the flagship restaurant just across the breezeway—isn't going anywhere. Yeah, we let out a big sigh of relief when we heard that, too.

"It's better to have one full place," said chef-owner Gino Vuolo of his pair of restaurants, which were literally neighbors. Vuolo added that the move out to the hinterlands is an effort to go to his customers rather than have them come to him. Over the years, both of Vuolo's restaurants have had reputations for being destination eateries in downtown Boise, however, Vuolo said rising gas prices are keeping many of his suburban customers closer to home and that he's not the only downtown restaurateur feeling the slump.

"It's all of us—everybody that I've talked to—we're just feeling the slow down," said Vuolo. When MilkyWay closed in April, Vuolo and downtown restaurateur Erik McLaughlin, owner of 8th Street Wine Co., made a solid show of support alongside MilkyWay owner Andrea Maricich. Since then, downtown Boise has also lost longtime favorite Mortimer's, and with the closing of Gino's Grill, it's hard to be optimistic about the future of local restaurants downtown given the current economic climate.

Vuolo, however, is nervously optimistic about his move to the 'burbs. He estimates that the new restaurant will be open by Christmas, and said it will feature what is basically the ristorante's menu with a few additions, a wine shop and an Italian deli. Also, for the first time, a Gino's restaurant will have a full bar.

Italian Wine and Import Shop Moves Downtown

A block up from what was formerly Gino's Grill something else is happening in the world of Italian food. La Cantina Sociale, which spent a few years in a rather obscure Bench shopping center location garnering the attention of wine drinkers with an affinity for Italian varietals, has moved into a much cozier and ideal space on Bannock Street. Owner Giuseppe Veneziano is a native of Sicily with a penchant for sharing the food and wine of his home country. La Cantina Sociale's new location is similar in spirit to its former digs but with a much more inviting execution. The wine selection is slightly larger now and still includes mostly Italian wine with a few bottles from Spain, France, the United States and South America thrown in for variety. Eventually, Veneziano will offer a selection of paninis for lunch, but for now, a seat in the cafe is all about the wine. Veneziano does casual tastings all day, as well as organizes more formal tastings for large groups or private parties. For the Italian chef, La Cantina Sociale's shelves are stocked with imported goods that range from the expected (like elbow noodles) to the unexpected (like lupini beans) to the intriguing (like bucatini—thicker spaghetti noodles with a hole down the middle).

La Cantina Sociale, 707 Bannock St., 208-377-0224, Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to close.

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