Restaurant review: Clintonville's Wine Bistro excels by mimicking its siblings

G.A. Benton, Columbus Alive

The new Wine Bistro in Clintonville shamelessly rips-off of its older brothers in Worthington and Upper Arlington. To that I say, "High five!" and, "Welcome to the neighborhood, friend."

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" or, "Don't mess with success" - choose whichever cliche you prefer, because both apply to this branch of a nothing-like-it-in-the-area chainlet specializing in reliably prepared, vino-compatible, easy-to-enjoy Cal-Ital food. Blending this cuisine with a casual vibe plus a healthy dose of unfussy sophistication in a lively wine store setting that could've been designed by a smart World Market shopper - and playing tasteful upbeat background jazz - the Wine Bistro family brings a touch of cushy Napa Valley to Central Ohio.

Last week, I settled into this newbie's roomy and comfy confines - looking at wine-colored walls and rampant amphora-ish vessels - to check out its everything-is-$5 (!) happy hour (you might have to ask for the special HH menu). There, amid a good-timing crowd beneath high-ceiling-hung, sorta rustic wooden doors and beams ("sorta rustic" is big here), that tiny HH menu afforded me a great little taste of this can't-miss place.

The Booze

Two respectable everyday-slurp reds were HH-priced. They were (attention: Cali-bashers) best-buy-type 2011 Euros: a Tortoise Creek carignan and Borsao garnacha - both spicy and (not flabbily) fruity thirst-quenchers. Similarly, two white blends from Italy - a peachy/mango-y Scaia 2010 and Sensi Toscana Bianco 2011 - were likewise discounted and also nice for lubricating-up a happy food path.

The Food

Four snack-sized versions of appetizers plus three flatbreads are HH-ed - all are worthy, wine-friendly choices. Since I had a pal in tow - and I'm a glutton - I sprung for most of 'em. There are gobble-able olives (warm and herby); an antipasto platter with more olives, dense pepperoni batons, salami slices, roasted red and yellow peppers sprinkled with capers plus pleasantly pungent asiago cheese; a nifty and not-shy-about-the-garlic hummus trio (thick and red peppery; chickpea and tahini-forward; and a salty tapenade) served with a basket of toasty pita triangles and a crusty white loaf; properly crunchy and garlic-rubbed bruschetta (a rarity); and a fine little extra-crispy/thick cracker-y Mozzarella Fresco flatbread that was garlicky, blanketed in comforting melted cheese and garnished with balsamic vinegar, fresh basil and chopped tomatoes.

The Wine Bistro

4416 N. High St., Clintonville