With more than 150 bottles of wine available, Molto Vino wine bar in Babylon Village certainly lives up to its name. It means “a lot of wine” in Italian.
The bar, which has gradually been adding elements to its stable of offerings since opening in 2012, started selling pizza six months ago. This past weekend, owner Massimiliano Garguilo celebrated the business’s two-year anniversary with the debut of a brick oven. Garguilo, an Italian native, built the oven from scratch to make traditional Neapolitan pizza. It took Garguilo, 38, about six weeks to build.
The 2,000-lb. oven was designed to be portable. It made its public debut at the Fall Harvest Festival in Babylon on Oct. 18. At 25 inches tall and 56 inches wide, the oven heats up to a scorching 900 degrees and can flash-cook thin-crusted 12-inch personal pizzas in less than 90 seconds.
Garguilo said Neapolitan pizza is part of his heritage. "The fresh tomatoes, the cheese cooked just the right way. . .I wanted to bring that here, to Babylon,” he said.
Leaning over the sleek, black bar that lines the side of the Molto Vino storefront Garguilo pours a glass of prosecco, and reminisces about his childhood days spent making wine and developing skills as a cabinetmaker with his family on the island of Capri.
In 1996, at 19, he came to the United States to help his family build Anema e Core, an Italian restaurant in Little Neck, Queens. Its name means “from the heart and soul.”
“I was only supposed to stay in America for three months, just to help build the restaurant and get it started,” Garguilo said, “but I fell in love with where I was, and ended up staying.”
With his cabinet-making background, Garguilo sought to build a business highlighting his craft.
After working for several years at Kitchens and More in Islip, Garguilo came across a then-run down storefront on Deer Park Avenue in Babylon Village. In 2007, Garguilo purchased the space, as well as the apartment upstairs, and began his life in Babylon.
“It was all very bad, the inside of the place, but I saw a lot of potential to make it my own,” Garguilo said.
On his own, Garguilo completely reimagined the place, he said. He gutted the walls to create a functioning showroom for his cabinetry and furniture.
However, in 2010 he began to see a lag in business. This prompted him to revisit his plans as an entrepreneur.
“I was always for creating things – it’s the artist in me. I’ll have a vision, like the way a cabinet or table will look up against a wall, and I will make it,” Garguilo said. “When I thought of the wine bar, I wanted to open up a new horizon for people that way; to have a place where people could taste wine before they bought it.”
The career transition spanned over a course of two years. Garguilo tested his business idea by sectioning off a portion of his showroom into a separate storefront, a tiny, cramped wine boutique that offered only tastings due to a lack of a liquor license. The boutique was a hit among the restaurant crowd, and Garguilo decided to expand. He ditched his cabinetry trade to expand and revamp the storefront to open Molto Vino.
“It was so small, we had people in there every night, standing shoulder to shoulder for wine tastings,” Garguilo said. “It was tight, but they kept on coming. I thought it would be good to expand, to provide a larger tasting room, and so, Molto Vino.”
The layout of the bar is simple – clean white walls, reminiscent of its furniture showroom past, with open cabinets and antiquated detailing originally designed to hold cabinets, instead of wine bottles. A single black bar front crosses the room parallel to a wall stacked with bottles of wine, with black floors and furniture designed by Garguilo in between. A kitchen was also added, so cheese and sandwiches can be served for a full dining experience.
In 2010, Garguilo also opened a wine retail store called Solo Vino, whose name means “only wine.”
John DeLoach, a Babylon Village resident and executive chef of LAVO NYC, is a regular at the wine bar, stopping by almost three days a week to enjoy a glass of wine and good company with his wife, Rose.
“The pizza here is unlike any in the area,” DeLoach said. “I know food, and the pizza is always consistent -- you’ll get the same pizza on Friday that you will on Monday. There’s some love in there too, and that’s special.”
The new pizza oven, which is currently stationed outdoors behind the bar’s patio, was partially inspired by Babylon’s annual fall festival. Garguilo said he intentionally chose to make the oven mobile so he could debut it at the fair and use it at other village events to help promote his business.
Garguilo said in the future he would like to plant a garden on the premises, so he can develop a farm-to-table menu for a “truly authentic experience.”
“This is how I grew up. It’s those days as a boy going down to grab cheese from the cellar, sharing wine with my father, eating the traditional pizza,” Garguilo said. “This is the kind of atmosphere I want to make here.”