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Columbia's Ristorante Divino to reopen in new space, with new name

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Vista Italian restaurant Ristorante Divino will get some new digs in September, a new name to boot. Co-owner Brad Spehl tells Free Times that he’ll open di Vino Rosso at 807 Gervais St. in the DuPre Building, {span}a former Ford dealership that dates back to 1919{/span}, renovating the space to restore its look and feel. The new restaurant, located just up the block from its previous incarnation, will retain many of the favorites on Divino’s menu, but will focus less on Northern Italian dishes and more on traditional Italian food. Spehl points to potential new additions, like gnocchi Bolognese and risotto. The Vista outpost of the craft beer bottle shop and bar chain The Casual Pint was the last tenant at 807 Gervais. The new restaurant will largely maintain its fine dining focus, but Spehl wants to lighten it up some to accommodate more than just those looking for a special-occasion meal. He and his team also plan to expand the current 150-bottle wine list to about 200, hence the new name, which he points out translates to red wine. “We wanted to rebrand. Ristorante Divino is an old establishment and so we wanted to keep the name but wanted to freshen it up,” he explains. “We wanted to take advantage of the space available.” The restaurant announced the move on its Facebook page on May 11.

Work on the bigger new space has already begun, Spehl says. The renovation will lean into the building’s old frame and feature a taller ceiling, exposed brick, ductwork and electrical work, he details. Henry Griffin, who heads the Kingsman restaurant chain and a forthcoming restaurant in Chapin, was formerly one of the top chefs at Divinos. However, he is no longer involved and the relaunched restaurant will be run by current chef and co-owner Mike Deevey, along with executive chef Nick Rodriguez. While Spehl and his team are pushing di Vino Rosso as a re-opened Ristorante Divino, the move does signify a major shift in the Columbia restaurant scene. Divino had been in the old location for 20 years, and it operated as one of the only white tablecloth, Italian-focused restaurants in the area. Griffin and Deevey bought the space in 2014 from former owner Fulvio Valsecchi and have run it since. Divinos closed in March due to the coronavirus and never reopened for takeout dining, unlike many other restaurants.

Now, Spehl, who became a co-owner as part of this move, says the lease is up at the location, so don’t expect that to change until di Vino Rosso opens in September. When that day comes, he’s confident, if the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing, they’ll be able to provide a safe atmosphere for customers. “We want to be able to thrive and be able to be there for the people that feel comfortable coming out and having a nice meal,” Spehl shares. “We’re committed to making sure that [the] environment is safe.”

David Clarey joined Free Times in November 2019 as a food and news writer. He's constantly fighting competing desires to try cooking food at home and spending his entire paycheck on Columbia restaurants.

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