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'Storm-Proof' Rockaway Wine Bar Serves Local Vintages on Tap

By Katie Honan | May 14, 2014 8:32am
  The Rock opened in the beginning of May and features a global menu and local wines. 
'Storm-Proof' Wine Bar Serves Local Wines on Tap
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ROCKAWAY BEACH — The local wine pours out of taps at a new bar designed to hold up to the next superstorm, according to its owners. 

The Rock opened in early May and features wine from local vineyards, including a Cabernet Sauvignon made especially for the bar by Red Hook Winery and selections from Jamesport Vineyards on Long Island. 

And while they do sell some bottles, as well as craft beers and champagne, diners are encouraged to select from one of eight wines served from a tap system that's meant to be as eco-friendly as possible. 

It's the passion project of a world-traveled couple, Lillian Amato, 50, and Cecil Brando, 47, who both love food and wine — and saw an opportunity to make their mark after Hurricane Sandy damaged a family's business.

Amato's brother's planned to expand their Rockaway Beach restaurant, Elegante Pizza, but used their savings just to get the pizza place up and running again after it was ripped apart by the 2012 storm. 

"They used all the money meant to expand to fix up after Sandy," said Amato, who is a managing director at Morgan Stanley.

It created an opportunity for Brando to propose his wine bar idea to his brothers-in-law, and he began working on the storefront himself. 

He elevated as many utilities as possible, put electronics on wheels and coated the reclaimed wood tables and chairs with waterproof sealant — so he can bounce back fast in case of another storm.

"I tried to do most of it storm-proof," he said. "I wanted to build it right."

Amato — a self-described "Food Network junkie" — created the menu based on food she and Brando enjoy, keeping in mind the space's tiny kitchen.

"We're cooking things that we really love," she said, including chorizo rice balls, ham and cheese croquettes and fresh salads.

In the future they hope to expand the menu, and also include a wine club for patrons.

The couple said they are happy to be part of an increase in restaurant options on the peninsula.

"It's another reason for Rockaway people not to leave Rockaway," Amato said.

The Rock Wine Bar, 92-03 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Rockaway Beach. Open Tuesday through Friday, 4 p.m. until 11 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. until 11 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m. until 10 p.m.