Editor's Note: The Dorchester Historical Society will host a special event  on Sunday, May 3 at The Boston Winery in Port Norfolk from 2-5 p.m. Back in 2007, the Reporter's former news editor Brian Denitzio visited the Winery â€” run by the Bruno family, who also own the Venezia restaurant next door. Enjoy!
If youâ€™ve ever thought about what it would be like to own your own vineyardâ€”choosing and harvesting grapes, crushing them, putting them in barrels to ferment, and bottling your own vintageâ€”a long-time Dorchester eatery can give you that chance.
Since 1986, Venezia in Port Norfolk has served its patrons authentic European cuisine with an Italian flair. Their homemade pastas and desserts, along with their gorgeous waterfront views have made the out-of-the-way place a dining destination for foodies from Dorchester and beyond. But last year, the Bruno family, who owns and operates Venezia, added something else to their menu.
Last fall, the Brunos opened the Boston Winery to give patrons the experience of creating their own vintage from grape to glass. According to Brenda Bruno, who operates Venezia along with three siblings, the idea for the winery came from her father Ralph, who for years has made and bottled homemade wine.
The process begins in early fall and takes about nine months.
â€œItâ€™s like delivering your own baby,â€ says Bruno.
Patrons choose from a variety of styles of wines that they wish to produce and then set about selecting their grapes.
â€œWe bring in the best grapes from California,â€ says Bruno. After grapes are selected and stemmed, the next step is pressing, or crushing them. From there the barrels are then filled and stored in the wineryâ€™s climate controlled cellar. Everything is done on site in a red brick building a stoneâ€™s throw from the front door of Venezia. In January or February, vintners return to â€œrackâ€ their winesâ€”removing sediment and topping off their barrels. In mid-summer, itâ€™s time for the final and most intoxicating step in the processâ€”bottling and tasting. The wineryâ€™s bottling and corking equipment allows you to easily produce anywhere from 240 to 288 bottles of your brew. In addition, patrons can design and produce their own labels for the bottles.
In their first year, Bruno estimated the winery sold a little over 250 barrels to approximately 175 customers.
â€œItâ€™s become a bit of a social club as well,â€ she says, adding that her husband and his friends purchased a number of barrels and enjoy coming by as a group to check on their concoctions.
Much like a bottle of wine, the Venezia too is maturing with age. Over 20 years ago, the Brunos took over the Harbor Light, a casual dockside eatery that catered primarily to boaters. The family put their 40-plus years of experience owning restaurants and bakeries in the North End to use, and upgraded the menu and ambience. They maintained the more casual feel for lunches by continuing to make use of the docks to bring boaters in for a quick mid-day bite. For dinner, the goal was to take advantage of the waterfront location to create a more elegant feel, says Bruno.
Venezia offers downtown-quality food and views of Dorchester Bay that rival anything more expensive restaurants with Boston Harbor views can boast. Throw in the free parking, and the scales tip in Veneziaâ€™s favor.
â€œWe pretty much market it as Bostonâ€™s hidden gem,â€ says Bruno. â€œBut weâ€™re still affordable for families.â€
Six years ago, the Venezia added a banquet facility for up to 300 guests. The banquet room provides access to a private, outdoor deck, as well as a marble staircase.
With the addition of the winery and the banquet facility, it would appear that the Brunos are could rest and enjoy the fruits of the labor; Brenda says that her father sees a lot of potential in the land the family owns along Ericsson Street. She mentions expanding paths and walkways along the water and perhaps creating seating for patrons to enjoy cappuccino and espresso while taking in the harbor views.
For more information visit bostonwinery.net.