It didn't take long for the new Proverbial Wine Bistro to become a hit.

When you're serving more than 50 wines paired with a menu that's long on flavors and dishes that can be shared with friends and family, word travels fast.

The wine bistro, the latest restaurant concept from Stephen Hightower, opened a few weeks ago in the shopping center at Airline Highway and Anitoch Road, near Rouses Market.

A walk through Proverbial Wine Bistro. Staff video by Robin Miller

Proverbial joins City Pork, Rouj Creole and Beausoleil Coastal Cuisine, all restaurants in City Group Hospitality, where Hightower is managing partner. The bistro's executive chef Steven O'Neill crafted the menu with the aid of Beausoleil's executive chef David Dickensauge.

And that menu is ripe with an assortment of shareable boards, like The Godfather, with braised pork loin and artichokes, eggplant campanada, polpettine meatballs, chard asparagus, truffle burrata, aged cheese, cured meats, fig mostarda and toasted crostini. And the Prime Cut, with cold-smoked rib-eye, duck fat fingerlings, red-wine braised mushrooms, cauliflower gratin, Rockefeller spinach and chard asparagus, along with hollandaise and homemade Worcestershire sauce. There's also an Under the Sea board, a South of the Border board, Sands of Time board and the Happy Ending board of desserts.

"The Godfather board is popular because a group of four can easily share it," Hightower said. "There's plenty, and they have a variety of things to choose from."

Other items on the menu include a wide selection of flatbreads, one burger (a combo of brisket and short rib) and a slate of appetizers, like the Meatball Napoletane, a dish of polpettine, prosciutto and mortadella meatballs simmered in a spicy pomodoro sauce.

"We make the meatballs from filet mignon meat," Hightower said.

There's also appetizers of scallops, stuffed chile ancho, hot chicken and Swine Dates, consisting of medjool dates stuffed with chorizo, andouille and tasso boudin wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon and baked in smoke piquillo tomato sauce.

Hightower said the Belgian waffle board is popular during brunch, which begins at 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. on Sundays. 

Proverbial's biggest draw might be its personal pairing service. Wine manager Hilary Haniff curates the wines in the bistro's collection and, with her staff, pairs them with each menu selection while also appealing to the customer's taste.

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The bistro, under the direction of general manager Chris Culotta, occupies the space that once housed Wildwood Pizza, which closed during the pandemic. Hightower kept the pizza oven and open window to its kitchen but completely changed the rest of the interior.

Guests now eat and drink in a plush, comfortable setting of soft leather back chairs and moss green banquets.

"The whole idea is that this would be a neighborhood place where everyone could be comfortable," Hightower said. "People can come here and feel comfortable watching a game on television if they want, or it can just be a gathering place. It can be as nice or as casual as you want it to be."

Just for fun, there's a cork drop window, where you can write a message on your wine cork and toss it in.

"Our logo is actually a sketch of Pliny the Elder, who created the encyclopedia and had tons of proverbs associated with him," said Hightower.

It was Pliny who is credited with: "In wine, there is truth."

"So, we're having everyone write their own little proverb on the corks and drop them into the cork drop," Hightower said. "So, it's really everybody's chance to be their own philosopher when it comes to food and wine."

He also did some wordplay with other sayings, such as Julius Caesar's "veni, vidi, vici," which translates to "I came, I saw, I conquered," and has been changed to light Proverbial's wall with "veni, vidi, vino" (come, see, wine).

Even the names of the bistro's cocktails are rooted in proverbs.

"And we're going to create new drinks based on proverbs and such," he said. "Nick Carpenter, our bar manager, will work with that."

Wines, along with menu items, will rotate at least twice a year, Hightower said, noting the bar's craft beers, many of them locally produced, also will rotate.

"We're constantly looking at what's new, what other flavors we can bring in," he said. "With the evolution of not only wine, but spirit, the bistro was really something that was in our wheelhouse. I knew it could be unique and different, but in the end, we just wanted to create a neighborhood-style place that would last for a long time, where people could feel comfortable hanging out."


Email Robin Miller at romiller@theadvocate.com