Vino Napoli now open!
Pèpe expands his ‘cottage’ industry
Restaurateur/entrepreneur opens wine bar next to iconic Little Napoli in Carmel
Growing up Italian in New Jersey, Rich Pèpe spent many Sundays sitting in church, followed by another family religion of sorts — sitting around a large dinner table passing bowls of bolognese and colorful stories of the day.
Pèpe turned those carefree, convivial memories into a cottage industry in Carmel and beyond. He’s a baker, a chef, a restaurateur, a winemaker, an entrepreneur and all-around culinary bon vivant. What Pèpe and his wife Sandra started in the late 1980s with ownership of Wishart’s Bakery in Carmel is now Pèpe International Inc., a company that includes partnership in Peppoli restaurant with Pebble Beach Resorts, Little Napoli Bistro Italiano in Carmel, Carmel Bakery, Pèpe brand wines and Pèpe & Pants marinara sauce. (Pèpe makes and bottles the sauce with his Jersey boyhood pal turned actor Joe Pantoliano; last month the pair cooked Sunday dinner for the Kennedys during a family reunion at the clan’s Cape Cod estate).
Now add to that impressive resume Vino Napoli, a month-old wine bar/tasting room that bumps up to Little Napoli on Dolores and Seventh. A former furniture store, the room boasts three small standing bars, four tables, a fireplace and racks of wine also seen on Napoli’s menu.
With no water credits and no restaurant designation, Vino Napoli is limited to cold antipasti and 2-ounce tasting pours. While the city said no to a restaurant expansion or a complete wine-bar concept (full-glass pours and hot appetizers), Pèpe said city leaders supported his tasting concept that allows wine lovers as well as restaurant patrons awaiting a reservation to hang out in a warm, inviting atmosphere.
“I look at it in a positive way,” said Pèpe. “People can try a number of different wines this way.”
The 2-ounce pours (a full is around 6 ounces) start at $2.50, and include Old World and New World varietals (from Antinori to Talbott). Antipasti offers include cheeses, Sicilian hummus, and skewers of mozzarella balls and sun-dried tomatoes.
Next door, Little Napoli showcases four generations of recipes the Pèpes call New Jersey-style Italian-American cuisine — served with classic Neapolitan charm.