I think it ranks right up there with other restaurant names that sound like inside jokes gone awry, such as the ill-fated Forks in the Air or Mama Stuffeati's. But Diethelm makes a good defense for the name. "Everyone is curious about it. We have people calling to ask about it. I think it's really cool," she says.
Cool, maybe. The place has a lot more panache than you might expect. It's not a fraternity hangout, thank God, but a European-influenced wine bar with a creative assortment of hot and cold appetizers, plunked on a stretch of Westport Road that (with the exception of high-society florist Bergamot & Ivy) isn't exactly cosmopolitan in flavor. In fact, the location that Diethelm, 25, and Kreimendahl, 24, snapped up for their first business venture had for years been home to perfectly ordinary -- but lovable -- neighborhood joints like the Wyoming Street Grill and O'Connors Pub.
Fans of those laid-back saloons still wander in and shake their heads at how the space has been transformed into something much fancier. The floors are newly tiled, the stucco walls artfully painted (they look as if they've been stained from years of customers puffing on unfiltered Gauloises), the tables epoxied with wine labels and photographs of European cathedrals.
On my first visit, I sat in a corner booth next to a tall table where four extraordinarily pretty women in their late twenties posed on stools, twirling goblets of wine in one hand and cigarettes in the other and gossiping like mad (about no one I knew, alas). Smokers can light up at any table but the four at the very back, near the restroom -- which should send the antinicotine contingent into spasms, because on busy nights, customers are packed in like sardines. But if Diethelm and Kreimendahl really wanted to evoke a Parisian sensibility, they would have had no smoke-free tables -- and fewer TV screens mounted around the bar.
Nevertheless, the place has an intoxicating appeal that gets sexier as the evening wears on and the crowd starts feeling a little heady. At one point, I found myself staring voyeuristically around the dining room. A well-oiled geriatric man pawed his younger blond girlfriend; a waitress -- mercifully not ours -- chewed gum and ignored her tables; a quartet of young heartthrobs drank dark ale at a corner table; and a heavyset woman of indeterminate age lustily shoveled French fries into her mouth.
The irony of the name is that the owners are firmly focused on wines, not low-rent booze. The wine list is well-rounded, with decently priced bottles (from $20 to $50) of predominantly California vintages and some interesting European and Australian imports. "We want to encourage our customers to try new things," Diethelm says. "So we're more about varietals than familiar labels."