If you like fine wine with your dinner, the new Gendler's and Black Ram restaurant in Rock Island is the place to be.|
After nearly $700,000 in renovations at the site of the old R.T.'s Italian Village, 1407 30th St., the sophisticated wine shop and high-end restaurant opened last August, and last Tuesday held the first of a new monthly series of wine dinners.
For $60 per person, 25-plus guests enjoyed wines of France with a five-course meal of foie gras, salad Nicoise, coq au vin, braised short ribs with beef medallions and dark chocolate truffle.
"Our market is to approach the wine enthusiast and those looking for a little more education," said co-owner Dave Requet, whose parents operated the Italian Village for many years.
They do complimentary wine tastings every Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. The old Gendler's did tastings, but not wine dinners -- where each bottle is specifically paired with a dish.
"Originally, our wine tastings were drivers for the restaurant," Mr. Requet said. "Now it's a nice added bonus. When we're booked Fridays and Saturdays with reservations, if we have a wait list, it's nice to say, 'Please enjoy a complimentary wine tasting.'
"The 15 to 20 minutes goes by a lot more comfortably when they're occupied with something they're learning about. "
"This will help bring that wine enthusiast here, and help make Gendler's/Black Ram a destination point for just that," said his wife, Lynda, head of Platinum Hospitality Group, which operates the business.
The restaurant, which seats 90 -- not including a cozy bar area with fireplace, tables and chairs --brings together two long-time local family businesses. The Requet family opened Italian Village 50 years ago on Moline's 23rd Avenue and 34th Street, and moved to Rock Island in 1972. For the last several years, it was operated by Dave Requet's brother, Rick, and closed in 2005.
Dave Requet met his wife when she started work at the restaurant after high school and they've been married 38 years. Plans for the new business have been in the works for six years.
Gendler's Wine and Spirits started as a grocery store, which Max Gendler opened in 1916 at 2518 5th Ave., Rock Island. It began selling alcoholic products in 1934 and wine in 1963.
Tom Getz and his wife, Karen, bought Gendler's in 2001 from owners Jerry and Rosalyn Zeffren and moved the store to a larger location next to the Isabel Bloom store on Moline's River Drive. The store closed in2007.
Mrs. Requet said they were friends of the Getzes and wanted to continue the Gendler name and tradition.
"I learned to appreciate wines through Gendler's, went to their tastings. I just love wine," Mrs. Requet said, adding that one of her favorites is "super Tuscan" wine from Italy.
They have been to Italy many times, as well as the wine country of Napa Valley, Calif. She's also a member ofthe American Wine Society, and has taken classes on wine.
Mr. Requet's investment group bought the Gendler name and inventory, and has the mailing list of its former wine club, but hasn't formally started a new club.
There is a chilled "cellar" on the main floor of the restaurant, with 90 labels of high-end wines (not on display in the wine store) that sell for $40 to $150 per bottle.
The goal of their wine collection is "variety, education, giving people as much exposure to as many wines as we can afford to do," Mrs. Requet said, adding that they have six distributors that supply wines from $10 a bottle up.
They are especially proud of carrying Hewitt wines from a70-acre vineyard in Rutherford, Calif., owned by the family of Bill Hewitt, the late Deere & Co. CEO who bought the vineyard in 1962. Its winemaker,Tom Rinaldi, will be here in May to do a wine dinner.
Gendler's/Black Ram also has a certified sommelier,John Hoty, who is a trained professional in selecting wines, all aspects of wine service and pairing food and wine. The next wine dinner is April 10, featuring Italian dishes and wines.
The chef is Dean McCollum, who has more than 20 years in the food-service business, including the old Plantation in Moline, Jumer's Casino, Short Hills Country Club, the Outing Club, Arsenal Club, and most recently, a chef at Hotel Blackhawk, Davenport.
Mr. McCollum said the Requets "really sold me on their business model, their vision. It was well thought through, really unique, with the wine shop.
"I liked them, liked the idea of working for a small, family-owned business," he said. "I've worked in a corporate job where I traveled around and opened new restaurants. That was fun and a great experience, but because of that, I never finished my degree," Mr. McCollum said.
His menu at Black Ram (named for its masculine emphasis on meat) features a variety of salads, Italian Village-recipe pizzas, Italian sandwiches, Angus burgers, grilled pork tenderloin, pasta dishes (including chicken marsala, lasagna, fettuccini alfredo and shrimp scampi), fried chicken, salmon, catfish, top sirloin, ribeye and filet of beef tenderloin.
Mr. McCollum said he loves the wine dinners for the chance to "do things I couldn't normally do every day."
There also are daily "features," items not on the regular menu, Mrs. Requet said.
There will be outdoor dining on their fenced-in patio starting in May, and the patio can be reserved for private events, Mr. Requet said.
There is a possible "phase two" for a $1.2-million building expansion, as the Requets envision a200-seat Grotto Bar and Grill, for casual dining, which would include an underground wine cellar with a walk-in cooler for wine club members.
"Wewant to see what the patio does for that six months. We may elect not to put in a million-dollar expansion," Mr. Requet said. He also plans live jazz outdoors on weekends.
"We want to see what the needs are, if the business can support it," Mrs. Requet said of future expansion. "We're not sure if it's going to be as extensive, or if we need to adjust it to what the business needs are now. We're evaluating it."
HOURS OF OPERATION
Gendler's is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with complimentary wine tastings (including hors d'oeuvres) from 5 to 7 p.m. Fridays. The Black Ram restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until midnight Fridays and Saturdays. It is also available for private events.
For more information, call 309-283-7600 or visit facebook.com/gendlersbr?fref=ts.
Rock island, IL Details
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