July 5, 2022 – Published in Design & Decor Spring-Summer 2022 issue
Vini e Capricci – The heart of choice cuisine and fine wines in Gozo
Photography: Matt Hush at Hush Studios
Located in Gozo, Vini e Capricci is run by a dynamic family of four: Abraham and Michelle Said and their two sons, Luke and Jeremy – both in their twenties. They are assisted by other family members and a dedicated team of employees.
The year 1984 marked Abraham’s humble beginnings as he embarked on his first business venture after he inherited a grocery from his mother. This shop, Abraham’s Mini Market, was located in the heart of Xagħra. Towards the end of 1991, he began his journey of wholesaling around Gozo.
In 2013, Abraham expanded his operations into Xewkija by opening a new retail outlet focusing on gourmet food and beverages. This innovative test concept was introduced under the brand name Vini e Capricci and reflected Abraham’s passion for delicacies and fine wines.
In fact, by the following year, their new brand, Ogygia, was introduced, blending high-quality local ingredients in innovative combinations to delight the senses. The range of products presents an authentic experience of Gozitan flavours, making Ogygia a coveted source of goodness, fully endorsed by gourmet chefs and those seeking wholesome traditional food.
In 2017, Abraham went on to become a direct importer of a high percentage of the products found today in the company. By the next year, Abraham’s vision for Vini e Capricci led him to refurbish the place with exciting additions to the existing areas. The deli was extended by an impressive 15 metres. Along with a butchery, a demonstration kitchen, and the in-store cafeteria, clients could enjoy a new concept in dining at the Vinoteca, as well as indulge in the Lounge dedicated to the appreciation of the digestif. And so, in 2018, the complete Vini e Capricci concept was launched.
The idea behind Vini e Capricci is truly innovative
The Said family had to strive to sell their unusual concept, but they persisted and were highly rewarded for their hard work. Inspiration came mainly from Italy, through ideas encountered on holidays or business trips. Their wish was to design a one-stop shop where clients buy their produce, but also have the option of staying on to enjoy the goods within the premises.
Patrons can, literally, start off with a coffee, do their shopping, have lunch, enjoy an afternoon aperitivo, and end the day with dinner and a digestif. Even though it is rare for people to stay for a whole day, there have been clients who lengthened their visit unexpectedly so as to enjoy the onsite facilities.
The butchery offers an infusion of genuine local products and a highly researched foreign range. A variety of meats are imported from Italy, among them the Fassona Piemontese beef procured from a specialist artisan butcher in Piemonte. This unique breed of cattle, born in Italy, is reared with the same principles used half a century ago. This results in a supreme-quality meat which is tender and lean.
Pork is strictly sourced locally due to its superior taste. The company experiments with ageing and curing the meat in-house. They produce their own sausages with meat from the shoulder. There is also a small section for ageing cheeses, among them Parmigiano and Pecorino.
The collaborations with producers were established before the brothers were born
Four core brands stayed the course after the place was launched, which enhanced the loyal friendships initiated with Abraham. Today, these suppliers are not mere business associates but are considered family. In fact, the four main areas at Vini e Capricci were named after these core suppliers, who were also involved in the inaugurations.
The Gianfranco Berta Lounge was opened by Annacarla Berta, daughter of the late Gianfranco Berta. The Cantina is named after their finest wine producer, Michele Chiarlo, and was opened by the man himself. The Vinoteca Livio Felluga was inaugurated by Maurizio Felluga, the third generation from the Felluga winery, while the Donatella Cinelli Colombini Venue Suite was launched by Donatella herself.
The assorted range of wines and liquors is impressive
The wine cellar boasts a selection from around 60 wineries, with over 700 different labels. Most wines are sourced from 15 regions in north and south Italy. There is also a collection of wines from Spain, Portugal, Greece, Germany, and France, as well as New World wines from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and North and South America. Three local wineries – Ta’ Betta, Marcus Divinus, and Marsovin – round off the collection.
Apart from conventional spirits, there is also a whiskey lounge with a collection of 280 different whiskies from all over the world, which is constantly being expanded. The aim is to offer variety as well as make customers aware of lesser-known brands.
One prized brand at Vini e Capricci is Distillerie Berta. Grappa started off as a spirit for the poor and was often distilled in the shed of a farmer seeking to warm himself. The two Berta brothers, Gianfranco and Chicco, took over the grappa distillery established by their father in the early 1990s and began experimenting with new ways of refining the spirit. They changed its clear colour to amber by ageing it, and today, they are one of the best grappa producers in the world.
Vini e Capricci offers memorable dining experiences through renowned events
Their most popular event is the annual Sax under the Stars, held in August on the feast of San Lawrenz. The start of the evening is timed to coincide with the sunset, offering a memorable aperitivo hour. This is followed by a gourmet dinner paired with excellent wines.
Another niche event is the yearly Tartufo Bianco d’Alba Dinner, held between mid-November and the beginning of December.
Fresh Alba truffles are sourced from Piemonte, Italy, to provide an unforgettable dining occasion complemented by fine wines.
The company also hosts al fresco dinners to mark traditional celebrations such as the Mnarja feast and Santa Marija weekend, among others. Furthermore, Master Classes are hosted by Sommelier and Wine Consultant, Fabien Etienne, and, occasionally, by wine producers themselves to encourage attendees in building a relationship with the brand.
The vision for Vini e Capricci is constantly evolving
The family never stops exploring how the current concept can be advanced. Though their father is the brains behind the family enterprise, the brothers are proud to work with him while implementing their own ideas. Mentalities and trends change as time passes, and they are interested in adapting to different types of markets and clientele.
Nevertheless, the Saids also acknowledge the importance of refining what they already have. Vini e Capricci originated and grew in Gozo. Even though Malta was considered for a smaller branch of the business, Abraham and his family preferred to invest in their native island so as to give people a wonderful reason to visit. And this is what gives Vini e Capricci its prestigious reputation!