Display type: Floor-to-ceiling walk-through wine room at entrance
Bottles held: 1,700
“We had been around for 30 years and had amassed an incredible wine collection, but not one bottle was on display,” says Tony Mantuano, chef-owner of Chicago’s iconic fine-dining restaurant Spiaggia. The motivation to include a memorable way to display the collection came when the restaurant was redesigned and renovated earlier this year.
“We wanted to make sure the wine was first and foremost in front of the guests,” he explains. The result? Guests cannot miss the importance Spiaggia places on wine, as they now walk through a custom wine room to enter the restaurant. “The wine room is where we place all our trophy wines, the ones the collectors want to drink and that are hard to find. This sends a great message,” Mantuano says.
Spiaggia’s wine room integrates strategically into the structure of the entryway. The restaurant resides on the second floor of a commercial building, so its front entrance faces into the internal passageway. The wine display is built so that people can drink up its grandeur from the outside as well as the inside. Diners and passersby see bottles placed horizontally, three-deep, on floor-to-ceiling racks flanking the front door.
As one enters through the outer-wall wine cases, the host station sits directly in front on the “fourth” wall. Here, there are doors to the dining room. The walls on either side are also floor-to-ceiling cases and craftily hide restroom doors. “Whether you’re walking by, going into the restaurant or using the facilities, you’re going to see the wine,” he says.
The glass-enclosed cases feature stainless steel racking. The mechanics for temperature and humidity control reside in the ceiling above. The cases stay locked, with only the sommelier or two cellar masters gaining access via key when a customer purchases a bottle.
While designing support for the weight of the wine cases and building appropriate temperature controls are challenges, Mantuano says that proper lighting is also one of the most important elements. Spiaggia’s case has clear LED lighting behind the wine so that it doesn’t glare or reflect in people’s faces.
The display room holds 1,700 bottles. Another 1,800 reside in a temperature-controlled room behind the scenes.