By Lauren Ciallella
News of this distinctive wine shop had the six of us traipsing to Little Italy for a Saturday evening at Tango. Sidestepping wine store convention, their quirky twist on potluck has customers toting their own tapas to 2161 India Street. Captivated by the thought of an indoor picnic while sipping regional wines, we arrived laden with Tupperware and nostalgic enthusiasm of tea parties past, ready to partake in this simple yet inventive realm of “dining out.”
Unfortunately, our glee was short lived and resulted in one of the most sobering experiences I’ve had at a wine bar. Although Tango possessed key ingredients for a perfect night of wine tasting with friends (good wine, boutique selection, no corkage fee), they managed to ruin it with an unwelcoming and eventually abrasive attitude.
Finding the establishment empty upon our arrival, we were pleased to have our choice of seating. The interior didn’t hold much appeal, dividing a cold, concrete space into two areas- one with various wine crates laying about for inspection and one with all the charm of an unfinished basement. Its painted cinder block aesthetic and an oddly placed patio set amongst the other furniture gave a disjointed ambiance to the “snacking and sipping” area.
We approached the first table – a long, unfinished wood block adorned with tall stools. I would never learn if those stools were as uncomfortable as they looked because we were quickly ushered away by a woman who told us that she needed the table for a tasting group at 7 p.m. (they never showed).
We were actually relieved by her detour when we noticed the large, leather bound sofa with a low, round table that was ideal for housing our impressive feast.
We all took turns picking out bottles, sampling two Chiantis and two of their signature Malbec variety, a featured wine from Argentina. All were welcome additions to our palate, with bold traces of woody earthiness in the Malbecs. We ordered one last bottle to finish out the night, feeling giddy from the wine and the inner warmth it had fueled in our rosy-cheeked, campfire circle.
After purchasing five bottles and spending over $100, our sedated lull was brought to a crashing halt -literally. The woman who shooed us away earlier had remained aloof the remainder of the evening and seemed pained to take our money for each bottle (selected with no help from her). Now she was standing right next to us and playing the garbage can lids like cymbals, asserting this hostile instrumental as our cue to leave.
We checked our watches and noticed it was only 8:10 p.m. Confused, we finally figured out they close at 8 p.m., which doesn’t make much sense on a Saturday night. This also seemed strange since the “so-called” tasting began at 7 p.m. When she started performing her “tin can alley” impression, it was only 10 minutes after they were supposed to close and I’m curious as to what they’d do if someone came in at 7:45 p.m. – push them out the door in 15 minutes? If the Tango staff wants leave by 8 p.m., then they need to close at 7 p.m.
It was even more infuriating since we had just dropped a c-note and were literally being chased out. In the hour or so we were there, we were their only customers and now we knew why.
When I ran into my friend who had suggested it, she was shocked. She recounted her own experience, painting a picture of customers milling around and mingling, while friendly owners opened bottles, offering guests a taste of this or that. She was also told that although they usually close at 8 p.m., they’d stay open as long as there were people there.
What type of Jekyll and Hyde establishment was this? I was disheartened to find that this affable alter ego existed because we had somehow missed it and instead incurred the wrath of Broom Hilda. I ended up leaving this wine-filled evening at Tango with nothing but “sour grapes.”
(Lauren Ciallella is City Times’ copy editor)