Owner Robert Esche played professional hockey in the National Hockey League (NHL) for eight years as a Phoenix Coyote and Philadelphia Flyer. He also competed in the 20th Winter Olympics in 2006. After completing his professional playing career, Esche began several business ventures including Aqua Vino Restaurant. He is also the President of the Utica Comets AHL team.
Beverly has been the general manager of her son Robert’s restaurant for almost as long as it’s been open. Both the dining room and banquet hall started service in September of 2007 and about a year later, Beverly came in to help out. It didn’t take long for her to go from helping out occasionally to running most of the operations. Before coming to work at Aqua Vino, Beverly ran her own successful floral business.
Beverly describes the cuisine of Aqua Vino as standard American with Italian flair. They serve traditional Italian dishes like Chicken Riggies, made with boneless chicken pieces sautéed with onions and peppers in a tomato cream sauce over rigatoni pasta, and customer favorites like the Tomahawk Steak, a bone-in cut from the heart of the prime rib roast.
Recently Aqua Vino started featuring a charcuterie board on their menu. The idea came from the May 2015 Maines Food show, which featured charcuterie displays. The menu item has been a success from the start. “People have been ordering a ton of it,” says sous chef Jason Gordon. The board includes truffle salami, chorizo, and soppressata meats and Bluestone blue, Grana Padano, and Jarlsberg Swiss cheeses.
Beverly attributes Aqua Vino’s long-time success to teamwork, unity, and synergy. Adding that Maines has played a big role. “They are a huge help to us,” she says. “They work with us to find new and innovative ideas and are always helpful and supportive. I tell a lot of people to go to Maines.”
Executive Chef Michael Geno has been working in kitchens since he was 15 years old, creating a strong local fan base that followed him to Aqua Vino in 2007 and has stayed with him ever since. He’s known for his specialty of Drunkin Clams and Stuffed Calamari as well as his commitment to quality and consistency.
In addition to indoor dining, Aqua Vino also boasts outdoor dining on a patio overlooking the historic Erie Canal, which attracts tourists and locals alike all summer long. Aqua Vino also hosts large groups in the upstairs banquet hall. In-house catering has been a part of the operation since opening day. Most of the staff works in both the dining area and the banquet hall.
Aqua Vino Restaurant has expanded their catering business off-site to include Utica Comets AHL team events, weddings, and various other private events. After the success of the charcuterie board, the Aqua Vino team is developing new menu items and continues to work with Maines to find innovative ingredients.