Episode 12: Gone so soon?! Another nice bar bites the dust! (EDITED)

(EDIT: Cafe Vinny’s reopened around the first week of December. They expanded the menu to include Filipino dishes, more Mediterranean stuff, and a few more drinks. A cocktail menu is on the way too.

Despite being a nice, quiet place to dine and hang out as it was before, it’s still pretty much empty. They’re still improving the place, though. I hope people would take time to visit the bar and spend time there.)

There was this bar at one corner of Remedios Circle in Malate that’s far away from the district’s noisy, and bright, buzzed night-time environment. Here, one could just hang out, sip wine or beer, and dine while listening to 70’s and 80’s pop-rock. The place was quiet, the meals were worth every peso, and the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. It was a nice place for a break away from the chaos of the world, a bar that’s more than suitable for a relaxing night-out.

Now why am I describing this bar in the past tense? Because it’s already closed!

I discovered Cafe Vinny’s around June while I was looking for a new bar to visit. Admittedly, I miss hanging out in music bars just like Anthology, which already closed down months ago. Going to dance clubs and such is out of the question, but that’s another story.

Cafe Vinny’s was just a small, hole-in-the-wall place just near the Remedios Circle, and it was barely noticeable because its surroundings were dimly-lit. To make it worse, while all the music, dancing, and action were on one side of Remedios Street, on the side where the bar was, it was almost deathly quiet.

Not so much when I entered the bar, though. From the bar counter I could hear Queen playing on the background. The place was almost empty, save for the few foreigners happily drinking nearby. Inside it was brightly lit, but the lights were relaxing to the eyes, unlike the laser beams and strobe lights and spotlights in dance clubs. The counter itself sported a decent selection of wines and spirits.

Vince, the owner of the bar (and a European), was the first to welcome me. He told me that walk-in customers like me are kinda rare in his place; most of the people who come were just invited to visit. He was mighty proud of his bar, and how!

After a few pleasantries, I noticed a bottle of beer being brought to my table.

“If you finish that quickly, you can have another one for free,” he said. This guy enjoys his alcohol well, I guess.

I learned from the staff that Cafe Vinny’s opened last May, ironically with little fanfare usually practiced by bars in the area. The bar offers Mediterranean, Italian, and Indian cuisine, along with a wide selection of liquor (and a few types of wine as well).

The first stuff I tried was a platter of beef salpicao, one of the best-selling appetizers, along with a goblet of Carlo Rossi. While I’m not so much into having pica-pica or other food stuff with my liquor, they did a mighty good job in convincing me to try out the combination.

And was I in for a surprise! The beef was tender and succulent, and its sauce was spicy and flavorful. The fragrant scent of the hot salpicao was the best of all, appetizing and teasing to the senses. The red wine complemented the strong flavor of the salpicao too. Mmm-hmm. Doesn’t look like the usual salpicao.
Vince also recommended their pasta. There were only four or five items in the line-up, and I’m not an expert in Italian cuisine, so choosing what to try out was quite a challenge… In the end, I settled with the porcini e salsiccia, a baked pasta dish.

The porcini e salsiccia consisted of a bed of linguini, Italian sausage, porcini mushroom, and red creamy sauce (the chefs said these were cooked with red wine). As I mentioned I’m not an expert in Italian cuisine, much less pasta, but I could humbly say I found the dish to my liking. The sauce was creamy and fragrant, and it had a whole spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. It was a small dish, but very filling.

I learned that the menu was supposed to boast of a wider selection of pasta, main course meals, appetizers and other stuff, but they’re still on some sort of a test run.

I spent some time talking with Vince and the staff about the bar, and found out that business has been quite poor. They admitted that drawing customers was very difficult, mainly because they compete with the bigger, noisier establishments at the more lively parts of Malate.
Despite the lack of popularity, Vince wanted his bar to be a place for people like me who prefer to spend quiet night-outs.”We try to create a great atmosphere where everyone can sit down, have a quiet drink, and then do whatever they want,” Vince said.

Vince however admits the bar is not as lively as he hoped to be. “This is an empty bar,” he laments.

Lyn the bartender, on the other hand, said Vince had big plans for the establishment. She said above us was a wide area suitable for a sports bar. Everyone who wants a rowdy night would go to the sports bar, while those who just want to chill would end up at Cafe Vinny’s. Not a bad idea, actually.

I spent a few more nights at Cafe Vinny’s relaxing, chatting with everyone, and also talking about food and wine and the potential Cafe Vinny’s holds as a great hang-out place. The bar remind me of the nights where I get the “me” time I deserve after a week’s work: listening to Sting, sipping wine, grabbing a bite or two, getting drunk in a good way.

So imagine my frustration when one Saturday night, I came to Cafe Vinny’s and found out that it’s closed… No advisories, no word of mouth. The place just closed down… Just like that.

I wonder, in this age when most people prefer establishments that let them do loud, rowdy ways to unwind and have fun, if there are places in Malate that can compare to Anthology, or Cafe Vinny’s for that matter. I guess no one could blame me if I prefer more quiet places for me to relax at. I mean, not only do I get to dine in peace or enjoy music, but I can hang out in a place where I can say I belong. Either I’m just that laid back or I’m really getting old. Where was I? I hope to discover some quiet place where I could hang out soon.

The King of Pain approves!

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