Brunswick wine, cocktail bar to blend old, new

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BRUNSWICK — For the past year and a half, Nikaline Iacono has been sourcing vintage glassware from yard sales, auctions, and almost anywhere else she can find it. She then re-sells her finds – which range from 1930s cordial glasses to 1980s sailboat mugs – online. 

Starting next month, however, she is taking her thrifty tendencies past her Etsy page and into a new venture: opening a restaurant.

Vessel and Vine, at 4 Pleasant St. in Brunswick, is planned to be a wine and cocktail bar, locally sourced eatery, classroom space and glassware and barware retailer.

Iacono said beer and wine will also be available for sale at the shop, which was set to open Feb. 15, before the restaurant and bar.

Iacono has worked in Brunswick restaurants for approximately the past six years, most recently managing the wine bar at Greek and Italian restaurant Enoteca Athena. In addition to bartending there, she also sourced glassware to be used at the establishment. Before that, she accumulated more wine knowledge working for a Maine wine distributor.

Iacono said opening her own restaurant has been a dream of hers for a while, but she didn’t plan on it coming to fruition so soon. 

“Kind of a perfect storm of a couple of different things happened that caused me to really take stock of where I was and what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. 

Last August, she began developing a business plan with Coastal Enterprises. In November, one of her friends who owns the Pleasant Street building allowed her to begin setting up in the space without a lease.

“I just kind of made that leap of faith that I was going to secure financing, and if I didn’t I would just be out my time and a couple thousand dollars,” she said. “And then financing came through at the end of December.”

In decorating the eclectic interior of Vessel and Vine, Iacono put her thrifting skills to work; in one corner, a brass mattress frame hangs from the ceiling. Iacono found a bed by the side of the road and dismantled it to create the piece. 

All of the restaurant’s tables, which Iacono said she got for a total of $120, came from a Chinese restaurant in Lewiston, which is where she also obtained three chandeliers that hang over the bar.

In the back of the room is a large wooden rose she took from her father’s former restaurant in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Some wood paneling on the walls was taken from her barn. 

“This place has come together on a serious shoestring, but I think it looks really good,” Iacono said. “I look around and I’m like ‘yup, I know where everything came from in here.'”

In addition to her craftiness, Iacono has had help from friends. Yennika Ekstrand, an artist, painted a large mural depicting fish, bouquets of carrots, clams and other objects on the restaurant’s back wall.

Ultimately, however, Iacono said she hopes the interior of Vessel and Vine will be ever-changing.

“Frankly the entire aesthetic of this place is going to be very fluid,” she said. “Literally, the couches will be for sale, (and) the chairs will be for sale, as if it’s a gallery essentially; I’ll have a price list on the wall.”

All of the glassware drinks are served in will be for sale, too.

When the restaurant is up and running, another one of Iacono’s friends, Brunswick native Matt DeFio, will be the head chef. Iacono will be the sole bartender, and Will Sullivan will run the retail end.

Iacono said DeFio, who recently started his own fresh pasta company, will eventually prepare it at Vessel and Vine.

For now, the sample menu features items like parsnip and apple soup with goat cheese and arugula, and fish dishes such as cured salmon on pumpernickel with red onion and kewpie, a Japanese mayonnaise.

Before the bar can open, however, Iacono must be approved for a licence at the Feb. 20 Town Council meeting. Her hope, she said, is to have the bar open by March 1.

Another component of Vessel and Vine will be classes planned to start by early April. DeFio will instruct how to make pasta and other dishes, while Iacono will teach about wine and cocktails.

She taught wine classes at Enoteca Athena, and thinks they can be fun and informative.

“That’s going to be a huge part of this place,” Iacono said. “I want it to be a place where people can learn, whether it’s on the retail side, or coming in and feeling comfortable asking questions of Will, or of me, or of Matt, so that we’re all accessible and can kind of help people go outside their comfort zone without even realizing they’re doing it.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Nikaline Iacono, the former bar manager at Enoteca Athena, is opening Vessel and Vine, a wine and cocktail bar that will also sell vintage glassware, at 4 Pleasant St. in Brunswick. Vessel and Vine’s retail store opened Feb. 15; Iacono needs town approval before the bar can open. 

Much of Vessel and Vine’s interior consists of items sourced by Iacono, such as tables from a Chinese restaurant in Lewiston and a mattress frame hanging from the ceiling. Iacono’s friend Yennika Ekstrand painted the mural on the wall. 

Iacono has been collecting and selling vintage glassware, ranging from the 1900s until the 1990s, on her Etsy page for a year and a half. She will now sell her pieces at Vessel and Vine, and all of the glasses drinks are served in will also be for sale. 

Will Sullivan, who will be in charge of retail operations at Vessel and Vine, sweeps the floor a week before the opening. Sullivan, Iacono and chef Matt DeFio will be the restaurant’s only staff members. 

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