Sitting at the bar, gently swirling a glass of Stagedive Pinot Noir on a chilly Irvine night, I think, “When’s the last time something from Arizona opened in Orange County?” Postino WineCafé, whose first location is in Phoenix, opened its first location in California on Monday and isn’t stopping there. The restaurant group seems to be popping up new spots all across the country with approachable, non-snobby food, beer, and wine.
“Our by-the-glass menu typically features around 30 wines sourced from boutique makers,” says cofounder Lauren Bailey. “Every day of the week, it goes on happy hour where you can get any one of our glasses for only $6 from open until 5 p.m.” Six bucks for select wines and draft beers … in Irvine? Sign me up.
Postino’s inspiration comes from the founders’ love of Italian culture, where they even adopted the slogan “drinking wine at lunch is not a crime,” which is available on bumper stickers. You can also join the bottle club “Wine Cult,” which has specialty selections and other perks quarterly and yearly.
Inside, expect cozy U-shaped booths, chill couches, eclectic art, and a wall installation that’s unique to each restaurant. Irvine has a Tetris-ized wall of ’80s boom boxes. Outside, a blazing fireplace sits opposite a gorgeous wall mural by artist Jacquie Comrie.
The food menu is worthy of a stop even if you’re not into beer or wine. There are sharable charcuterie boards, panini, soups, fresh salads, and what Bailey likes to call “snacky things,” which make good aperitivo, my favorite being the maitake mushroom with lebni, lemon zest, and smoked salt.
By far the biggest hit is the bruschetta board: Select four from a list of 12 options, such as brie, green apple, and fig jam, or the super–satisfying bacon burrata. The bread is the star of the show, supplying just enough bounce to carry each bite’s flavors.
Postino WineCafé, Park Place, 2981 Michelson Drive, Irvine