A good Scena
When you're making wine for priests to use in Sunday Mass, you can learn a thing or two about the good stuff.
As a 12-year-old boy growing up in Ecuador, Vincente Siguenza attended a religious school that had him making wine for the priests from scratch. It taught him all about good wine at a very young age.
"That's when I started sipping wine and learning to like wine," he said. "You cannot get more personal than picking grapes and then going down to the cellar to check on the wine."
About 20 years later, Siguenza has brought his knowledge and love of wine and good food to the diners of Darien. In September, he and two of his cousins opened Scena, a wine bar and Italian restaurant along the busy Post Road corridor. The name is both a play on the Spanish word for "supper," and the fact that the restaurant is located in the same block as a movie theater.
"In one package, we can offer a meal and a film," he said. "This location creates a beautiful energy."
Siguenza and his family is no stranger to local dining. Since arriving in the United States in 1994 at the age of 19, he has been working in the restaurant business. He began his career busing tables at the Mediterranean Grill in Wilton, and from there worked his way into various bars and restaurants, including a stint behind the bar at Barcelona Wine Bar in South Norwalk. In many places, he took over as waiter or manager when he was needed. It was at DaPietros in Westport that he learned about good Italian food.
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"That was a huge school for food and good wines," he said. "It was a big learning experience for me."
In 2004, he took his first jump into owning a restaurant, when he opened up Cava on Forest Street in New Canaan, with his older sister in the kitchen as head chef. Six years later, the family decided to take the next step and found the location in Darien. It's definitely a family business -- his sister Doris is the pastry chef, and cousin Marco is the Maitre D.
But it's the executive chef, Eben Leonard, at Scena who Siguenza says is the secret to their success. Leonard was a student of Todd English, famous for bringing up many local chefs from his New York City restaurant, Olives. Leonard cooks up homemade pastas and many fresh Italian dishes -- think homemade fettuccine carbonara or lamb mezzalunas, as well as veal Milanese and Long Island duck breast. The staff go shopping at New York's Fulton Fish Market at least twice a week to get fresh seafood.
"I think the chef is the key to any restaurant, I don't care what they say about the wine or the ambience," he said.
But Scena doesn't lack for ambience. While the focal point is the wood-fired oven at the bar where pizzas and other baked dishes get cooked to perfection, the restaurant is warm and cozy, decorated with glass, wood, and black steel -- very reminiscent of a wine barrel of all things. Wood in the ceiling is recycled from a bar in Massachusetts, and bricks in the wall come from an old building. A beautiful case along the wall displays 250 wines from California and Italy, and there is room for about 60 people in the dining room and 20 near the bar for a fun happy hour.
"The idea always surrounded wine," he said.
Scena is located at 1077 Post Road East in Darien. They are open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Dinner is served Monday through Thursday 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. Visit Scenawinebar.com, or call 203-662-3226.