The wine bar officially opened in November. Located at 79 Atlantic Ave., Café Chardonnay offers a selection of over 40 different wines from across the world, plus a selection of craft beers, single malt scotch, bourbon, liquors, a selection of meat and cheeses, pizza, sandwiches and signature paninis, plus desserts and coffee. The venue is also available for private parties and events.
The wine bar is headed by owner Ben Milano, a Lindenhurst resident and Queens native, head bartender Joe Lizardi, who has 25 years experience bartending at various locations such as Governor's of Levittown and the Brokerage in Bellmore, servers Tina Himaya and Kevin Dunn, and chefs George Lanza and Sean Owen.
Café Chardonnay is open on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight. The wine bar is closed on Monday and Tuesday’s and will be open on weekend days for all NFL playoff games (special menu from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
Specials include ladies night every Wednesday and happy hour from Tuesday to Friday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The wine bar also features karaoke, live music and wine tasting (2 oz. tasting pours).
Call 516-321-9100 and visit www.thecafechardonnay.com for more information.
Patch recently sat down with Milano to discuss the new wine bar:
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
This is my first endeavor in food and beverage industry. Before this I was director of marketing at NY Life insurance for 2 1/2 years, but there was a layoff of 650 people and I was one of them. To be quite frank with you, I must have sent out 2,000 resumes, went on tons of interviews, and kind of just had it with the corporate world.
I always had it in the back of my mind to open some kind of wine-related establishment. A wine bar was always an idea because I have a wine background - my grandfather always used to make wine when I was a kid and I was doing food and beverages for Northrop Grumman, NY Life Insurance, meetings and events. So, there was always that component there. Then, I went to the French culinary institute and got a wine certificate from there. So the vision has always been in my head.
Q: What other locations were you looking at before settling on Lynbrook?
We actually looked at a place in Port Washington but that fell through. My wife found this place and we signed the lease sometime in September. And this is really what I had envisioned in my mind, this is what it looked like.
I’m from Flushing, Queens originally and I live in Lindenhurst. One of the things I like about Lynbrook is that is reminds me of Flushing when I grew up. It’s small, it’s very homey. Like, everybody knows everybody and people help each other.
The people have been really great to us here. When I first got here and I was getting it up and running, people were really helpful.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face?
There aren’t any wine bars really anywhere in the area. There’s an Italian place in Malverne, but that’s 100 percent Italian and it’s smaller than mine. Mine’s like, 80 people, 40 to 50 wines. So, the first challenge is to get people to know that you are here, and get them in the door.
There are so many Italian restaurants in this area that the mentality is that you will go to dinner and get a glass of wine. But what we are trying to do is a different concept versus what’s out there already. We’re a wine bar, first and foremost. We serve wine, single malt scotch, bourbons, sambuca, coffee, espresso, desserts, cheese boards, etc. And we’ve expanding the food menu so far, based on what the customers have told us.
But that’s the biggest challenge – to get people to try the place.
Q: What are you most proud of so far as a new business owner?
We have not had one negative review of what we’ve seen so far in online reviews. I've seen four or five star range reviews and I’m very proud of that. They have complimented my staff, which I think makes me more proud then when they compliment the actual product. Because they know when they come in here, they’re going to have people that are nice, friendly and respectful and knowledgeable.
Q: What are some of your best deals?
From Tuesday to Friday, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. is happy hour. We have 12 wines which are more than 50 percent off. All craft beers are $5. A 8" pizza is just $5 and any panini sandwich is $6. You can come in and get two glasses of wine and something to eat for less than $20. So after work, come in, hang out, if you don’t want to go home and cook, it's the perfect place.
And on Thursday night’s, we are doing 25 percent off any bottle of wine - whether it’s a $100 bottle or $40 bottle – all night from 5 p.m. til close. I take a hit as the owner on that, but we’re trying to bring in people and have them try different things.
Q: What are some of your best wines that other places might not offer?
This is what I can say with a guarantee: we have about 40 wines on the list including Rose’s, sparkling wine, two different Dalton Kosher wines, all excellent wines. I am not an expert when it comes to the Kosher wines, but I started tasting a lot and this is the two that I choose. The people who come in and know Kosher wines love them.
I would say 95 percent of the wines on the list you won’t find in any liquor stores or the majority of restaurants. I don’t care where it comes from. And I did that purposely. If you’re going to go to a wine bar, you’re going to want to try wines that you can’t find anywhere else.
We’ve got wines from NY State to Italy, France, South Africa, Germany, Argentina, Chile, Spain. So it really is across the board. We’re also going to bring in wines from Greece, Turkey and a few other countries.
Q: If you had one thing to tell local residents about your wine bar, what would it be?
Come on in, take a shot and don’t be afraid to try something new. I’m the type of owner that will give you a taste of something just so you can try it, because I believe in the product that we have. The food is fantastic, the wines are great and I’ll stand begin anything we sell
I can make this guarantee: if they buy something and they’re not happy about it, I’ll take it back no questions asked until they find something that they like. Until they say, ‘you know Ben, that will work.’ If I’m not drinking it, it’s not going to be on the menu.