The longtime local entrepreneurs behind Natural Wines Naples and Café Nutrients joined forces to create a new wine store and bar this month in Naples.
Peter Rizzo recently relocated his Natural Wines store in Liberty Plaza two miles south to the space on U.S. 41 that has operated as Café Nutrients since 2020. Ming Yee, the chef and owner of Café Nutrients, welcomed Rizzo and his hundreds of bottles of wine into his health-centric cafe, which has been rebranded Bar Nat. Together, they have created the ultimate local wine pairing.
The physical transition for the businesses occurred in August and the organic food and wine collaboration was launched in mid-September at 3080 Tamiami Trail N. Yee says it’s a hip concept for Naples.
“It’s been really well received,” he said. “It’s been a really awesome journey. I’m really excited to see how it goes. I still get to do what I’m passionate about with the food, provide health-conscious plates and incorporate local businesses [for food sources] within that philosophy.”
Hurricane Ian was the cataclysmic event that propelled them to finally take the plunge and merge their expertise. It made financial sense then.
“It was something that we talked about, just as being friends and customers in each other’s store,” Yee said. “The businesses go hand in hand, so it’s a good pairing.”
The new business is promoted as a natural wine retail shop by day and a wine bar and scratch kitchen eatery by night. The wine store is open noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and other times by appointment; the wine bar and scratch kitchen are open 5:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and until 11 p.m. Saturday.
As with Café Nutrients, Yee crafts dishes with locally sourced ingredients and a focus on healthier eating.
“We’ve been cycling out the entree each weekend,” he said. “We did gnocchi with mushrooms from Care2Grow for the first weekend. That was really awesome. We did homemade lasagna béchamel, where you make the pasta in-house with ingredients from scratch. We did scalloped potatoes with béchamel sauce. We have an abundance of basil growing, so we did a nice creamy pesto and did some chicken thighs.”
Regular small plates and appetizers include cheese boards, Caesar and caprese salads, prosciutto with melon and pistachios, bruschetta de focaccia, house-marinated olives and roasted Marcona almonds. Expect something sweet, too, such as cheesecake, peach cobbler or French chocolate cake.
Each night, Rizzo prepares unique wine tasting flights that allow guests to sample three or four wines. Of course, wines also are available by the glass or bottle. Rizzo knowledgeably explains the taste profiles and origin of each wine, pointing out growing regions on topographic maps of European countries that line a wall of the venue.
Years of personal experience are behind the making of the new local business collaboration.
After working as a wine importer and distributor in New England, Rizzo opened his first area store—Old Naples Wholesale Wines—on Fourth Avenue South in 2004. In 2015, he relocated north and introduced the first natural wine store in Florida at Liberty Plaza on U.S. 41 in Naples.
Yee was born and raised in Naples, including growing up in his parents’ Tokyo Sushi restaurant in East Naples. He founded Café Nutrients as a personal passion project in 2017 next to the original Silvio’s Shoe Repair in downtown Naples before the redevelopment of that retail strip forced the businesses to relocate. Café Nutrients moved three miles north in 2020 to the new multi–tenant building on U.S. 41, where Bar Nat is today. The location is on the southeast corner of Rosemary Lane and Tamiami Trail North, across from the Moorings neighborhood.
Bar Nat has at least 35 seats inside and space for another 20 outside in the back with a small garden area near its entrance and parking lot off Rosemary Lane. “When it gets cooler, I bet that’s going to be very popular,” Rizzo said.
Shelves with bottles of natural wine line some of Bar Nat’s walls. All of the wine, of course, is available for retail purchase. “In the store, there are hundreds of options,” Rizzo said.
Three pillars constitute natural wine, Rizzo said. They are made using organic or biodynamic farming methods, natural yeast fermentation and without any additives, he said.
“The farming is without synthetics—so, no chemical herbicides, no chemical pesticides, and no chemical fertilizers,” Rizzo said. “What it is, it’s nothing more than a return to traditional ways of farming and traditional ways of making wine that was the standard for thousands of years before World War II. And then in the 1950s, especially in the ‘60s and ‘70s, wine increasingly became industrialized. So, what this is, is re-embracing wine as an agricultural product.”
Rizzo says natural winemaking creates more expressive and authentic wine. “These wines are cleaner and they’re healthier for you,” he said.