Photo by Matt Stensland
Bella’s owners, from right, Nick Ciraldo, his sister Lisa Ciraldo-Freese, her husband, Michael Freese, and their daughter Bella are pictured. The owners worked with designer Vahakn Matossian, left, to transform the space below Chocolate Soup Pastry Café into a downtown wine bar.
Take a taste
Bella’s is open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesdays through Sundays at 737 Lincoln Ave., below Chocolate Soup. Call 970-870-9463. Check out the Web site at www.bellascolorad.... Learn more about designer Vahakn Matossian at www.vahakn.co.uk.
Steamboat Springs Nick Ciraldo shows no doubt.
He’s not fazed by opening a new business during an economic recession; not fazed that Bella’s, a basement wine bar, is across the street from the selection at Cellar Liquors and up the street from the wine cellar at Harwigs/L’Apogee; and he’s certainly not fazed by the fact that Bella’s is part of a Pioneer Building location that has seen frequent closings in recent years, most recently by the Heidi’s Little Switzerland deli and, before that, Metropolitan Mudd Coffee Co.
“I have no idea about what everyone else did, and I have no concern about what everyone else did,” Ciraldo said last week. “I came here to do this space, and I came here to do it right.”
Ciraldo is a part-time Londoner who has had extended stays in Steamboat Springs during winter months throughout the past five years. He’s the co-owner of Bella’s, which was scheduled to have its grand opening Saturday night. In addition to Old World wines by the glass and bottle, Bella’s serves artisan breads, cured meats, cheeses and soups at 737 Lincoln Ave., below Chocolate Soup Pastry Café in downtown Steamboat. Ciraldo’s sister, Lisa Ciraldo-Freese, owns Chocolate Soup with Michael Freese.
Nick Ciraldo again stressed his singularity of purpose when asked about the overall economic climate.
“I’m not really interested in what else is happening out there,” Ciraldo said. “I’ve had 110 percent positive feedback.”
His lack of doubt is borne by a surplus of confidence in Bella’s.
The basement setting is rustic and elegantly simple. Some of the walls are the original stone, the ceiling is low and lighting generally is at candle-level. Much of the furniture, including the bar, is handmade. Taps jutting from walls were left as found, with a copper color, and the wine list is written on a chalkboard. Racks in the wine storage area are made from the walls’ original beams.
He said the Home ReSource salvage yard at the Milner Landfill was invaluable in designing Bella’s.
“I’m there twice a week,” Ciraldo said. “They’re a great resource, and not enough people know about it.”
Ciraldo brought 26-year-old designer Vahakn Matossian from London, where the two have been friends for years. Matossian has a master’s degree in design from the Royal College of Art in London and has completed a variety of multimedia art projects and exhibits.
For Bella’s, Matossian said, his aim was to create a place that felt like coming home or visiting a friend’s wine cellar.
“It’s kind of driven by honesty,” Matossian said. “One of the rules of the place was ‘no trim.’”
Ciraldo recruited locals Jill Wernig and Talaya Thomas to serve as hostesses, servers and de facto concierges at Bella’s. Wernig is a part-time DJ, part-time bartender and event organizer at Mambo Italiano and co-owner of Mountain Mama’s crepe spot. She is frequently involved with the Steamboat Springs Arts Council.
Wernig said when she heard about Bella’s, she found time in her calendar for the job.
“This is a project I really wanted to be a part of,” Wernig said. “We think it’s going to draw a whole different crowd of people who maybe don’t feel like they have somewhere to go.”
Bella’s features turntables and a speaker system, along with a piano under the stairs.
Ciraldo said the wine list would change constantly and usually offer only six wines, focusing on Old World varieties that he said will “take most people out of their comfort zones” and provide guests with access to glasses of wine usually found only on expensive bottle lists.
“We are doing something very time-tested,” Ciraldo said about the formula. “You’ll find places like this all over Europe, but they’re very provincial.”
Ciraldo said Bella’s would offer wines from regions in Italy, Spain and France, among other locales. He said the wine bar would serve high-quality Champagne, as well.
“There’s not nearly enough Champagne drunk in this town — and there’s going to be,” Ciraldo said.