Wine Expo's tasting bar and retail food shop is now open for your after work Italian Barbera and South African Chenin Blanc fix. The bar side of things was delayed several months thanks to the usual L.A. suspects -- construction delays, permits, etc. But if those smoked olives from Orgasmo de la Boca are half as good as manager Roberto Rogness makes them sound in Tweets ("Wanna taste the crack meets hot sex of olives?"), we all needed a little extra time to build up to this wine-shop adjacent hangout.
Rogness says the Internet cafe angle that owner Ali Biglar originally planned was scrapped for more of a traditional wine bar. "Ya, we really want people to come here and have that community thing." Or perhaps that the city of Santa Monica actually approved a full-on wine bar/retail space (which can be tricky to get through all the red tape) rather than a hybrid we're-really-here-to-work (right?) version was the reason for the change. Regardless, as Wine Expo is known for its eclectic, well-curated wine selection, you can expect interesting, regularly rotating by-the glass offerings here.
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The retail shop with local products up front turned out to be no small affair as it takes up a generous one-third of the new space. Rogness is still stocking the shelves with artisan foods and non-alcoholic beverages, including imported almonds, tapenades, olive oil and Spanish seafood (jarred/canned), which are also being served along with salumi, cheese and other sundries in the kitchen-free bar area.
You'll also find a building collection of local products, including relishes from Viola's Gourmet Goodies, Hippie Chips from Venice and those orgasmic olives. And not to worry, the wine shop's signature sarcastic signage is abundant in the retail food shop side of things as well should you need a little blind date conversation jump-start before your first glass arrives. As the wine shop is directly adjacent, you've also got an easy escape route when you absolutely must browse those just-arrived Chiantis next door.
Wine Expo Wine Bar, 2933 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-4428, www.wineexpo.com. Monday through Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. and Sunday until 9 p.m. The food retail shop is open regular store hours.