Small Business Interview: iL Vinaio

by Tak Hikichi

iL Vinaio, Mesa AZiL Vinaio of Mesa, AZ

Today’s Small Business Interview features our local Downtown Mesa restaurant owner, Cameron Selogie. iL Vinaio is an American Wine Bistro with Mediterranean influence, serving Traditional American Home-Style Breakfasts and Lunches, open all 3 meals, 7 days a week. See menu

Cameron and I connected over at Twitter in the beginning. As a baseball fan, I quickly became facsinated when he told me how “Chicago Cub’s Minor Leaguers eat breakfast every morning”.

Next time you’re in Downtown, stop by iL Vinaio or call for reservation at 480-649-6476.

Cameron – tell me a little bit about your restaurant. 

  • We are one of the few independent, family owned and operated, large format, full-service restaurants around and the only full service restaurant open all 3 meals, 7 days per week, in Downtown Mesa.

Any entertainment your guests can expect during the week?

  • We host regular weekly live jazz jams as well as other regular live entertainment in a “concert-hall”-like open dining room (3400 sq feet).

I love jazz, it sounds like an entertaining place.  How about your drink selection or food?  Tell me a little please.

  • We sell wine, retail, at a significant discount and carry over 100 different small production, boutique wines. We pour 40 by the glass! Our executive chef, Patrick Boll, executive chef of a James Beard Award winning Team, also nominated 5 times does his magic to offer extraordinary cuisine at every-day prices and in a casually elegant atmosphere where guests are comfortable – you can visit us dressed formal or in shorts & tees. 

So would you say your restaurant is casual to semi-casual?

  • Yes – We have four unique and distinct areas in the restaurant: Semi-Private Dining Room seating up to 40, A wine-bottle shaped bar, A family style extended bar area with huge bar-height tables seating 8 each, and a casual, romantic area featuring four sofa tables that are especially popular on date night.

I heard you’re into art.  Tell me about how that’s reflecting in your restaurant.

  • il Vinaio is known not only for the art on the walls, but the walls are the art. We feature a larger than life Original Jimi Hendrix Oil Painting painted from Woodstock, Tuscan Art from Winemaker Kenneth Schilling, Original Oils from Jazz artist Sharon Aebi, as well as photos of our “family” of guests, and a unique cork board made out of 2200 wine corks, in-laid with black wine corks spelling our name. We also have a blue-lit soffet, hand painted with eleven wine proverbs. The restaurant also features 70 original Sunflower Stained Glass windows. In a world of ultra-modern, hi-tech restaurants, il Vinaio has a truly unique “old world” Tuscan Style.

Great – what’s something unique about your restaurant?

  • The most unique thing though is being in the heart of Historic Downtown Mesa which is absolutely unique in all the world for what can be done in one day on foot: Park and come in for breakfast, walk to a used bookstore or historic artifact store, get your hair or nails done, go to a nationally acclaimed youth museum, have a wonderful lunch, see a professional baseball game, shop at boutiques, buy some hand rolled (by a Cuban) cigars, go to another acclaimed museum, have an early dinner, go to a live show in a $100 million Art Center, go out for a glass of wine and dancing to live music and then top off the evening in an after hours club, then walk back to your car or stay in the hotel next door. Beat that! Now how boring is Mesa? Soon all of Phoenix can get here by light rail as well.  Also, anyone can come in and dine with the Chicago Cubs Minor League players who we feed breakfast every morning. We even feed their rookie league team March through October.
  • Now with all this said there are dozens of very unique ties this restaurant has to old stories in the Tora, Koran, and Bible as well as to the infamous Arizona Project and car bombing of reporter Don Bolles….for another day…

Cameron, now that you started, you need to tell us more about those stories.

One interesting design feature of our building is the use of stained glass “sunflowers”. I may be giving you too much information for now but here goes:

  • Our Stained Glass Sunflowers have been an icon of Downtown Mesa since the early 1970’s.
  • There are exactly 70 of these works of art gracing our walls.
  • 70 degrees Farenheit is the ideal fermenting temperature of yeast when making wine.
  • According to St. Augustin the number 70 is symbolic of the totality of an evolution, an evolutionary cycle being completely completed.
  • SEVENTY: is another combination of two of the perfect numbers, 7 and 10 and signifies perfect spiritual order carried out with all spiritual power and significance.
  • There were 70 nations before the Tower of Babel. [Genesis 10:1-32
  • 70 men built up the nation of Israel when Israel first entered Egypt. [Genesis 46:27]
  • 70 elders met God on Sinai and ate a sacred meal. [Exodus 24:9-10]
  • 70 elders of Israel comprised the Sanhedrin (court of law).
  • Jesus chose 70 disciples [Luke 10:1
  • There are two levels of sunflower windows. 33 on the top and 37 on the bottom.
  • Leah and Rachel are sisters told in the Bible to be the mothers of humanity. They had 70 children between them and their handmaidens. Leah had 33 the others 37.
  • Our second level of windows was unveiled in 2009, a vision not seen in decades. Our grand reopening was the completion of an evolutionary cycle where downtown Mesa was reborn into one of the great cultural centers of the West.
  • With the Beautiful Mesa Arts Center, and the opening of the Mesa Light Rail, Il Vinaio will help complete the evolution of Downtown Mesa into a Mecca for millions.
  • Sunflowers originated in Southwestern North America over 5000 years ago and now are spread throughout the world.
  • The Sunflower forever follows the path of the sun in the sky.
  • In the language of Floriography, Sunflowers symbolize loyalty and wishes. Loyalty to our Customers and our Downtown Community and Wishes for a Promising future.
  • The Sunflower also symbolizes power, warmth and nourishment…like our hearty breakfasts!
  • Sunflowers are a simple miracle. They grow from a seed. They rise from the earth. They are natural. They are bright and beautiful. They bring a smile to one’s face. They produce seeds that are nutritious, and from these seeds oil is produced. Native Americans once used parts of the sunflower plant to treat rattlesnake bites, and sunflower meal to make bread.
  • Sunflowers were even used near Chernobyl to extract radioactive material from contaminated ponds following the catastrophic nuclear reactor accident there.
  • Sunflowers have become a symbol of a world free of nuclear weapons. On June 1, 1996, Ukraine transferred the last its 1900 nuclear warheads to Russia to be dismantled. Celebrating the occasion a few days later, the Defense Ministers of Ukraine, Russia, and the United States met at a former nuclear missile base in the Ukraine that once housed 80 nuclear missiles aimed at the United States.  
  • The three Defense Ministers planted sunflowers and scattered sunflower seeds. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said, “With the completion of our task, Ukraine has demonstrated its support of a nuclear weapons free world.” He called on other nations to follow in Ukraine’s path and “to do everything to wipe nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth as soon as possible. “U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry said, “Sunflowers instead of missiles in the soil would ensure peace for future generations.”
  • Now with all that said regarding Don Bolles and the Arizona Project, you can Google book “the Arizona Project” that talks about Herb Applegate’s connection to the murder of Don Bolles. Herb Applegate was a restaurateur who owned the Humpty Dumpty’s and Hobo Joe’s chains of restaurants in Arizona and Nevada.
  • Our building is one of three in the Valley that was built as a Humpty Dumpty’s. The book excerpt discusses the “sex house” that Applegate gate had just a block and a half from the restaurant, and the ultimate murder of a repo man who came to Mesa to repossess Applegate’s girlfriend’s car.
  • Applegate supposedly had ties to possible corruption with Barry Goldwater. Interestingly enough the office in our building is all concrete block with a double thick steel door…odd for a restaurant…and we have a huge jewel safe that may hold further secrets…we’ve had safecrackers and locksmiths out who say it is unpickable…..

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Cameron Selogie is a restaurateur in Arizona and with his wife Cindy is owner of il Vinaio Restaurant in Historic Downtown Mesa www.ilvinaio.com. Fine Wines, Craft Beers and Gourmet Food have always been a passion of Cameron’s and he loves the art of pairing wines and beers with foods to make magic. With a focus on fun, creativity and Customer Service he is building a reputation for the unusual. You can connect with him on twitter @ilvinao and Facebook as well.

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