Vin Grotto Café and Wine Bar, a pioneer of downtown Tacoma's revival, has been sold.
Vin Grotto proprietor Kris Blondin said she'll close out some wine Feb. 18-19 and "I am out on the 20th."
Coming soon in Vin Grott's Pacific Avenue space: Merende, a 75-80-seat Mediterranean-Italian restaurant helmed by Jeff Bishop, who was previously the chef at two acclaimed South Sound restaurants, Il Fiasco in Tacoma and Brix 25 in Gig Harbor, and at Sound Food Cafe on Vashon Island. Bishop is partnered with Ian Lombardi, whose Gig Harbor family owns the Harbornet Internet service provider.
Bishop said that because the name of the restaurant means "small bites" in Italian, diners can expect the small-plates, shared dining experience of "not ordering a heavy entrée but ordering four or five different dishes." He'll still do full meals for those who like that style of dining.
Bishop said there's no target opening date yet. He said the kitchen will be re-rebuilt and the bar will be moved.
"As soon as we get the keys we'll know more," Bishop said.Jeff Bishop, with former Il Fiasco co-owner Jill Wambold, in 2004.
Commercial real estate broker and former restaurateur Mark Wambold was the matchmaker on the deal. He was Bishop's boss at Il Fiasco and Brix 25. Lombardi cooked at Il Fiasco.
Wambold said they're shooting for a mid-April opening.
"I opened my first restaurant on April 13, " Wambold said, referring to Marco's, which debuted in the Gig Harbor location that's now Brix 25 in 1993. "I'm hoping there's a bit of luck there."
Wambold said he was approached by the Lombardi family about opening a restaurant for their son Ian, who attended
in Florence, Italy.
"He spent time doing the thing that all young chefs want to do," Wambold said. "His family's real good to him that way."
Ian Lombardi, 25, said, "I kind of went over there on a whim when I was 19, and I got a job cooking."
Of his vision for Merende, Lombardi said: "I want to have a nice, family Italian restaurant. I don't see a whole lot of Italian restaurants in Tacoma. You have Europea Bistro and Il Fiasco. It's kind of a tragedy."