Before opening Mary’s Vine, a wine lounge located in a former Rankin church, the owners sampled more than 2,200 different types of vino.
“Each wine tells a story,” says 25-year-old sommelier Jordan Stasinowsky. “Some are novels, some are poems.”
The story of Mary’s Vine reads more like a fairy tale.
Jordan, his parents Walter and Cheryl Stasinowsky, and his sister and brother-in-law Amber and Daniel Smith, moved here from California several years ago to launch the family business. He discovered the dilapidated church on Craigslist and was captivated by its raw beauty.
Vacant for 11 years, Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church was ravaged by time and the elements. Neighbors thought it would take a miracle to restore the century-old structure to its former glory.
Luckily, the Stasinowskys are long-time general contractors. They spent a year and a half remodeling the former house of worship.
Mary’s Vine opened last month, boasting 4,600 square feet of dining space. The wooden pews —repurposed as doors and decor accents throughout the facility— have been replaced with comfortable sofas and chairs. There’s seating for 97 guests, who can rearrange the furniture to suit their party’s needs.
With the pipe organ as a backdrop, musical acts perform each night in the loft overlooking the crowd. Sunlight beams through the only remaining stained glass window, casting a rainbow of colors on the wall.
“People don’t want to leave,” Cheryl Stasinowsky says with a laugh. “The goal is to invite people in and make them feel like this is their home.”
There are 75 wines by the glass and 357 bottles for sale. Flights also are available in three or four three-ounce pours. Patrons can peruse the selection on iPads, which are searchable through different filters — by region, varietal, etc. — and can keep track of their orders to reference their favorites during future visits.
Bottles from all over the world are stored in two temperature controlled wine cellars. One is beautifully displayed in the sanctuary and the other in the basement, where the family plans to install a cigar bar. Ninety-five percent of the wines at Mary’s Vine aren’t available at local Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores.
Wines by the glass are poured at the table in the appropriate stemware, and customers can sample selections before they commit. Not a fan of wine? Mary’s Vine also has bottled beer and a roving cocktail cart that allows servers to mix classic drinks — from an Old Fashioned to a Manhattan — tableside.
Family members constantly make the rounds, answering questions and offering suggestions on drinks as well as food.
Chef Alex Fitz, who previously worked at Willow, Common Plea and The Wooden Angel, has created a menu of salads, flatbreads, shareable platters and entrees. You can cut the five-ounce petite Filet Mignon Bourguignon with a butter knife.
A new brunch menu debuts this Sunday. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., where Pittsburghers can get eggs Benedict, French toast, chicken and waffles, and fruit and yogurt parfaits. The kitchen is located downstairs, so meals are hoisted to the main floor via a dumbwaiter.
The Stasinowskys and Smiths are embracing their new community — they live in another desanctified church three blocks away in Swissvale — and encourage guests to spend the day exploring the area, making stops at businesses such as Brew Gentleman and Superior Motors in neighboring Braddock.
When former parishioners drop by, they’re in awe, thankful to see their long-dormant spiritual home filled with life again.
That makes Cheryl Stasinowsky happy. She casts her gaze to the front of the sanctuary, where an ornamental family tree hangs on the wall. The branches hold empty wine bottles — each one representing a memory they’ve made over the years.
She looks forward to making more memories at Mary’s Vine and hopes Pittsburghers do the same.