As she signed the lease to her new Genesee Depot eatery, Kristina Verzi said she was overcome with a feeling: She has gone full circle in life.
Verzi, who grew up in the Midwest, eventually moved to the West Coast, where she began working in a variety of positions within the restaurant industry. The love and care that went into food preparation was an experience Verzi drew from at a young age.
“My grandma was a big inspiration to me. She loved to cook and was a great influence,” Verzi said. “When I started to work in the industry, I fell in love with it more than I ever could have imagined.”
Verzi is leaving the hustle and bustle of California and relocating to Lake Country. She and fiance Steve Smith are opening a restaurant and wine bar, Vittles and Vine, at S42 W31428 Highway 83, Genesee Depot. Vina Mundi formerly occupied the site.
The Genesee Town Board and Plan Commission recently reviewed Verzi and Smith’s application and approved it. She also has received the all-important alcohol license. With the green light from town officials, Verzi said she aims to open the establishment by the end of the year.
Part of the reason Verzi is laying roots in Genesee Depot is her impending marriage to Smith, who works in Mukwonago. But she has another marriage in mind as well: melding together two disparate cuisine concepts on one menu.
Vittles and Vine will have a West Coast influence — particularly with its array of wines — but Verzi said she also plans to have plenty of Midwestern ideas incorporated into the offerings.
The farm-to-table concept that gained its footing in this section of the country will be an important part of the menu, she said, as will a variety of comfort foods that have long been crowd pleasers.
Vittles and Vine will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Appetizers, entrees and small-plate offerings will be featured on the menu. The goal, Verzi said, is to appeal to every palate imaginable by way of sandwiches, pastas and salads.
Whenever possible, Verzi said, she plans to incorporate ancient grains, which are healthier and low in gluten, into dishes. In a nod to her professional roots in California, Verzi said a variety of menu items also will have a decidedly Mexican influence. On the drink side, Verzi said she plans a full range of beers and wines.
“We hope to appeal to a wide demographic of people,” Verzi said. “We want to be a welcome addition to the community and make everyone who walks in the door feel comfortable.”
That emphasis on comfort will be displayed through Vittles and Vine’s layout, Verzi said. The establishment will feature a bar area for patrons interested in having a drink or light meal, and also will be complimented with a seating area for those seeking a true dining experience.
Additionally, space is being carved out to accommodate large groups and special events, Verzi said. Specifics are still being finalized, but wine tastings are among the offerings planned once the doors open.
Immersed in launching Vittles and Vine, Verzi said she is overcome by a sense of awe during such a pivotal time in her life.
“I came up with the name (of the restaurant) before the location,” Verzi said. “But when Steve and I saw the listing for the commercial property, everything just fell into place. When a door opens like that, you’re getting some signs from up above, loud and clear.”