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Cheers to 10 years

Cafe Divino is the area's oldest wine bar - for good reason

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It’s been 10 years since Jana Zimmerman decided to open a wine bar in Tacoma’s Old Town. Back then there weren’t as many museums in Tacoma, the University of Washington, Tacoma was still young, and there were about 1,000 fewer condos than there are now. Back then, Zimmerman didn’t know nearly as much about wine, and relied on wine reps for recommendations about which wine would tickle the noses of her would-be patrons. Running a wine bar was tough back then, and very busy. Throwing wine-tasting parties involved sleepless nights and hair pulling.

Her venture, dubbed Café Divino, was supposed be little more than a wine bar. But as she celebrates her 10th anniversary as its owner, making Café Divino the oldest wine bar in Tacoma, Zimmerman says it wasn’t long before she had a lot more on her plate.

“When I opened I was just going to be a small wine bar — do a little lunch, appetizers for dinner,” she says. “And then the place just took off. People were so excited. Business from the beginning was crazy. People started asking for more. They wanted more food. They wanted dinner. Now we are doing baked salmon, ahi tuna, cannelloni, and sausage lasagna. We’ve really expanded the menu.”

These days, Café Divino’s menu includes items such as halibut tacos, consisting of two soft tortilla shells topped with a chipotle mayo, blackened halibut, cabbage and mango peach salsa. Zimmerman also recommends ahi tuna. That one includes yellow-fin tuna, pan seared, served rare, topped with wasabi lime mustard, and includes garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed vegetables and a Caesar salad. If you’re just looking for something to soak up some wine, try the stuffed mushroom, consisting of mushroom caps stuffed with crab and assorted herbs and cheeses, then baked in white wine and olive oil and topped with Parmesan cheese. Seriously.  Oh, and try the brie. Lord … brie rolled in cashews, baked and served with pears, mango chutney and fresh bread.

Zimmerman gives plenty of credit to chefs Nick Rall and Erin Ricardo.

“They’re both awesome,” she says.

Café Divino’s wine list has evolved as well, along with Zimmerman’s tastes. Thanks to a constant parade of wine-company representatives, Zimmerman has been exposed to a whole world of wine, she says.

“I started out not really knowing anything about it [wine]. I drank it, but didn’t research or study it. My wine reps are very helpful. Back then my favorite was Merlot — now its Pinot and Grenache,” she says. “I’ve learned something about wine every single day. I’m still learning. There’s so much to it, you really never learn everything about wine.”

There was a point at which Zimmerman thought that perhaps she had learned enough about the wine-restaurant business, and considered selling Café Divino so she could travel the world selling wine. But none of the offers fit, so Zimmerman decided to stick with it, and recently signed a five-year extension on her lease. That means Tacoma has another 70 chances or so to catch monthly wine tastings, which Zimmerman says are always a blast. If you ask for her recommendation, she’ll tell you she likes Australian Grenache and Pinot from Sonoma and Carneros.

Meanwhile, Zimmerman hopes some economic recovery brings back the good-old days.

“It’s not what it was, but it will come back,” she says. “I am hopeful.”

[Café Divino, 2112 N. 30th St. #D, Tacoma, 253.779.4226]

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