The third Inovino is attractive

The third Inovino is attractive
The third Inovino is attractive

Bar manager Ty Todd of the Eno Vino Waunakee, which opened in October, said business has been slow and he hopes it will pick up in the summer when the restaurant patio opens.

“We’re really trying to provide the best possible service,” he said. “We wanted to bring back that old-school Eno Vino West Side feel.”

In the early days of Eno Vino — the original Junction Road restaurant in Madison’s Far West opened in 2004 — about 90 percent of its customers were regulars, Todd said. “They come here for the standard, the food and the service. We’re trying to rebuild that image.”

Eno Vino’s flagship restaurant opened in spring 2017 on the top two floors of the 10-story AC Hotel by Marriott, just one block from Congress Square.

The three Eno Vinos have different menus but have a lot in common. Many dishes at Waunakee are a few dollars cheaper than elsewhere.

People are also reading…

Inovino bread

Warm bread with red wine reduced butter.

Samara Calque Derby | Wisconsin Magazine

We were delighted to start the meal with three slices of warm bread and lightly sweetened red wine reduced fat butter. My 17 year old daughter says she can’t remember the last time a restaurant served bread, and neither do I. Many places have it on their menu and now charge for it.

Inovino Sweet Potato Soup

Soup of the day, sweet potato cream, served with a crustless grilled cheese sandwich.

Samara Calque Derby | Wisconsin Magazine

Another highlight is the soup of the day ($12), sweet potato cream with chive oil and sautéed vegetables. It was hard to figure out what veggies were in it as they were pureed and the sweet potato flavor dominated. As a bonus, it comes with a crustless grilled cheese sandwich, crispy and buttery and beautifully presented.

Inovino Meatballs

Garlic ciabatta meatballs.

Samara Calque Derby | Wisconsin Magazine

The signature meatballs ($18) are also attractive, served in a bowl topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, Parmigiano-Reggiano crumbles and micro greens. The little meatballs were delicious and served with garlic ciabatta breadsticks that were ready to eat. After all, we’ve been spoiled with unexpected bread combos and surprising grilled cheeses.

Eno Vino Chicken Skewers

Chicken Thigh Kebabs with Crispy Mashed Potatoes and Mashed Avocado.

Samara Calque Derby | Wisconsin Magazine

The chicken thigh kebab ($19) was the only highlight of the hearty meal, though the crispy mashed potatoes that came with it and the guacamole on the plate were excellent. There’s something wrong, you might say, about chicken.

Both the meatballs and the chicken were under the largest section of the menu, “Sharing”, and our server asked us if we wanted them served with the soup or on their own. We should have opted to eat them all at once as there was an unusually long lag time before the chicken arrived.

Otherwise, the service is very good. Our server was personable and patient when it took us a long time to order. The host who seated us was also friendly and welcoming. I later found out it was Todd.

He brought us an iPad with a more detailed wine and cocktail menu and never returned to get it. We don’t see demand for iPads. The paper menu has enough detail for our purposes.

Eno Vino Wisconsin Winter

A Wisconsin winter dessert with homemade dulce de leche ice cream and caramelized bananas.

Samara Calque Derby | Wisconsin Magazine

For dessert, we opted for something called Wisconsin winter ($10), which is like a modern-day banana plantation, with homemade milk milk ice cream on caramelized bananas. It also had chocolate chips and little bars, apparently made of donuts, that looked like those unattractive crunchy chow mein. The “snow” on top is in the form of coconut meringue, or so the menu says. It’s more creative than delicious.

Inovino Sprite

“I spritz you not” with blueberry vodka, Lillet (a type of maceration wine), limoncello, aperitif, lavender syrup and sparkling water.

Samara Calque Derby | Wisconsin Magazine

I felt the same way about my drink, “I’m Not Spritzing You” ($11), which has blueberry vodka, Brillet (an infused liquor), limoncello, aperitif, lavender syrup and sparkling water. It’s mild, not overpowering, and it’s a nice spring or summer cocktail, but not something I’m dying to get again.

Waunakee Eno Vino’s vibe is a key part of the experience: contemporary style and clean lines. The iconic blue water glasses are brought over from elsewhere, and the gray leather chairs are very comfortable.

Eno Vino Waunakee Interior

Eno Vino’s signature blue drinking glasses and gray leather chairs add to the ambiance.

Samara Calque Derby | Wisconsin Magazine

The waiters’ uniforms, gray button-down shirts and black trousers complement the restaurant’s color scheme and decor. Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing on the sound system, which I found unusual in a restaurant that could be considered fine dining.

Glad the restaurant is open on a Monday night when not many places are. Our waiter welcomed us to the Eno Vino, pronounced “EE-no” when it was actually “EHN-oh veen-oh”.

Inovino Bar

The bar at the Waunakee Restaurant.

Samara Calque Derby | Wisconsin Magazine

Todd, who’s located between the West End and downtown, has worked at Eno Vino for about 10 years, said it’s hard to find employees for the Waunakee restaurant, and many of them are in high school or college.

“We’re training them as best we can,” he said.

Eno Vino Waunakee Bar Area

The bar area at Eno Vino Waunakee. The restaurant offers around 40 wines by the glass and around 200 wines by the bottle.

Samara Calque Derby | Wisconsin Magazine

Even though the Eno Vino has been around for a long time, many people still say “EE-no,” Todd said.

“As long as you know our names,” he said, “that’s what we really want.”

Eno Vino Waunakee Appearance

Eno Vino Waunakee opened in October.

Samara Calque Derby | Wisconsin Magazine

Read restaurant news at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *