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Fine Wining — Enjoy Italian fare, Mediterranean splendor at Maple Park’s Acquaviva

Zuppdi mare AcquavivWinery Maple Park. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Zuppa di mare at Acquaviva Winery in Maple Park. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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47W614 Illinois 38 (at Meredith Rd.), Maple Park

(630) 365-0333;

Prices: Appetizers: $4.50-$13.95; pizza: $12-$15; entrees: $16-$45; desserts: $4-$8.50.

Hours for restaurant and wine bar: 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday; noon-8 p.m., Sunday.

Try: Grilled salad, zuppa di mare, chocolate truffle. The appetizer-size wood-fired pizzas also are popular.

Tips: First-timers will want to take the wine tasting before dinner. Patio. Free valet parking and light entertainment on weekends. Full bar. Reservations accepted.

In a bite: Acquaviva Winery, one of Illinois’ more than 100 wineries, has a menu that is traditional Italian. Visitors to this far west suburban venue also can tour its production facilities and see firsthand where the winemaking takes place.

KEY: ★★★★ Extraordinary; ★★★ Excellent; ★★ Very Good; ★ Good; Zero stars: Poor

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Updated: September 7, 2012 9:36AM

To track down the restaurant at Acquaviva Winery, diners must plan on straying from the beaten path. The place, which opened for lunch and dinner in the spring of 2010, is nestled in tiny Maple Park, a 17-mile hike west of St. Charles.

It’s directly across from a 40-acre vineyard planted a decade earlier by Vito Brandonisio, whose family continues a winemaking tradition started in southern Italy by his grandfather. Several grape varietals — Chardonel, Brianna, Frontenac and Prairie Star — are hand-picked and turned into wine that’s sold at the restaurant and its wine shop.

The restaurant’s Mediterranean-inspired, high-ceilinged, multi-windowed main dining room is light, airy and spacious. Its menu offers traditional Italian fare, including nine versions of Neopolitan-style pizza made in a wood-fired brick oven.

Melanzane alla griglia proved a tasty salad, ideal for sharing. It featured grilled red peppers, zucchini and eggplant topped with a mix of goat and romano cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Caprese, bruschetta and fried or grilled calamari were among other starters.

Main courses, which range from $16 to $45, offer plenty of variety, from pasta (including homemade potato gnocchi) and chicken picatta to herb-baked Lake Superior whitefish and steak. The kitchen turns out Italian sausage sauteed with garlic, onions, mushrooms and roasted peppers in a white wine sauce, and serves six preparations of veal.

Acquaviva makes a commendable zuppa di mare. This rustic seafood stew was a recent Friday night special that our waitress suggested deserved a permanent place on the regular menu. Fresh mussels, clams, shrimp, octopus, squid rings and fish in a delicately seasoned broth were bolstered by a helping of spaghetti, providing a plateful of good eating.

My dining partner’s sea bass was perfectly baked, though the accompanying risotto had cooked too long.

For a nominal fee, customers can sample Acquaviva’s award-winning stock before or after their meal at a stand-up tasting bar adjoining the dining area. However, management misses a beat by failing to offer wine flights during meal service. The 2010 Donna Mia, a medium-bodied white blend with citrus notes, has much to recommend it; this wine was available by the glass ($6.50) or bottle ($23.95).

The restaurant typically has a half-dozen different desserts available, including lemon ice, cannoli and zabaione plus a made-in-house tiramisu. A chocolate truffle confection we shared was rolled in cocoa and provided a welcome chocolate gelato-caramelized hazelnut fix.

Daily tours of the winery are available by reservation.

Thomas Witom is a local free-lance writer.

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