At Brooke Kravetz’s Old Vines Supper Club, you’ll get used to saying ‘yes.’ Yes: The textural contrast of the crab and cucumber salad underneath a squid ink tapioca chip is everything you’d hoped for. Yes: The sweet and savory fennel, nectarine and cocoa nib pork raviolo is deeply indulgent and over too soon. Yes: The braised short rib is so fork tender that the meat springs apart at the lightest touch. By the time the Maine native makes her way to your table at the recently opened East Naples restaurant, you may only be able to nod in gastronomic appreciation.
Brooke isn’t afraid to try something new. “I like to work with somewhat offbeat ingredients and introduce people to things that are new but have a little sense of familiarity,” she says. Brooke pivoted from a pre-med undergrad program at Fairfield University to attend the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. While in school, she worked through the ranks as a hostess, server, bartender and cook at the original Old Vines bar in Kennebunk, Maine. Perhaps she didn’t realize she was laying the foundations for her culinary canon, culminating in the opening of Old Vines Supper Club earlier this year and her upcoming brick-and-mortar in North Naples’ Mercato shopping center.
In 2015, Brooke moved to town, working her way through esteemed local restaurants. Eventually, old friends and colleagues from Kennebunk came knocking, when the owners recruited Brooke to help launch an Old Vines location in Naples. “Everything’s kind of come full circle,” says Brooke, who now co-owns the Naples locale.
The restaurant offers nightly, multi-course prix fixe menus with different spins depending on the day of the week. Wednesday’s menu, for instance, caters to wines brought in by sommeliers. Unlike exclusive supper clubs that function like underground restaurants, Old Vines channels the social definition—wherein a group of friends gathers to share in themed meals and camaraderie—executing menus around proteins and themes served with a near-familial intimacy. Here, dining is more akin to buying a ticket to a stage show. “There are a lot of decisions to be made at the beginning of a dining experience, and with this, you just come into the restaurant, your table is ready, [and] you have a seat,” Brooke says. The performance begins.
She and her team experiment with menus weeks in advance, scouting seasonal, local fare to build dishes from the bottom up. A few favorites from the supper club will earn permanent spots on the menu for the full-blown restaurant Brooke is opening in Mercato in October, with former The Cave Bistro & Wine Bar executive chef and Michelin-pedigreed Daniel Swofford. Brooke is conceiving the Mercato location’s full bar as a sort of liquid kitchen—they’ll source local ingredients to make juices, cordials, infusions and syrups for each drink. “We are treating the beverage program with the same respect that we treat our culinary program,” Brooke says.
Back at Old Vines Supper Club, the tasting menu concept breeds creativity. “It’s really a place for [our] chefs to express themselves and their individuality with changing menus,” Brooke says. That might be most obvious in an early summer s’mores dessert. A smoky glass cloche arrives at the table, and the server unveils the treat with a flourish. You’ll smell the familiar comfort of a campfire before the smoke clears. A torched meringue and hazelnut crumble appear below a scoop of graham cracker ice cream, topped by an ornate chocolate tuile in the shape of a branch. A sweet finale, but really, only just the beginning for Brooke.