Fire Island Vines: A Taste of Fire Island in Bay Shore

Fire Islanders will feel right at home at Fire Island Vines on Main Street in Bay Shore. The walls are constructed of beadboard with exposed studs and beams and covered in artwork and knickknacks that look like they were handpicked from a classic beach bungalow.

The eclectic spot just east of Fourth Avenue opened two weeks before the pandemic hit in 2020. After a challenging start hampered by social distancing restrictions, business has been brisk.

“We’re not exactly a restaurant and we’re much more than a wine bar,” said owner Angelo Crisci. “We’re a winery.” Crisci, who also operates First Glass Wine Tours and has bottled his own signature wines for several years, envisioned the Bay Shore shop as a starting point for east end wine tours before the pandemic reshaped his strategy.

In addition to Fire Island Vines (FIV) brand rosé, sangria, Riesling, and pinot noir, the shop offers a full selection of New York-produced beers and wines. Drink flights can include any of the approximately 20 items offered on tap. An expansion into cocktails and frozen drinks is planned.

Fire Island Vines’ food menu is heavily influenced by Greek cuisine. “Our oil comes from my wife’s father’s olive farm in Sparti,” said Crisci, referencing the city in southern Greece. He and his wife Sherry developed the shop’s original menu, which featured pizzettes, gyros, and other Greek specialties.

During our visit, we started with a flight featuring McCall’s sauvignon blanc, Fire Island Vines’ sangria, McKenzie’s black cherry cider, and Great South Bay Blonde Ambition. The sangria was the favorite of the table, served over ice in the tasting glass with just the right mix of sweet and tart flavors.

Served next was the Village Salad, featuring feta, tomato, cucumber, bell peppers, red onions, and imported olives, drizzled with olive oil. Crisci explained that true Greek salads do not include any lettuce, and none was necessary to make this a delicious starting point for our meal. A generous portion of feta, served in blocks, pared well with the other ingredients.

The star of the night was served next: FIV’s signature margherita pizzette. The table couldn’t get enough. The crust was thin and flavorful with just the right amount of crunchiness around the edges. The San Marzano tomato sauce was superb, seasoned perfectly, and expertly portioned to complement the fresh mozzarella and pecorino Romano cheeses on the pie. Crisci explained that customers travel from across Long Island just to enjoy this particular pizzette.

Finally, the table was served beef, lamb, and chicken gyros, which were loaded with meat on warm pita bread. We initially assumed we would need to take some of these home as leftovers because of their substantial size, but again weren’t able to put them down. My favorite was the flavorful slow-cooked lamb, which melted in my mouth.

After doing much of the cooking themselves over the last couple of years, Angelo and Tessie recently hired Chef Deborah Scherer, previously of Hotel Indigo in Riverhead, who elevated their menu to include a broader range of appetizers and entrees including chicken, shrimp and vegetable skewers, shrimp cocktail, several new small plates, and charcuterie boxes.

FIV holds a Fire Island Happy Hour each Friday, from 5 to 7 p.m., featuring a DJ and guest celebrity bartenders. Shauna Rae from the TLC reality show “I Am Shauna Rae” bartended at a recent event. Live bands play most Friday and Saturday nights. A unique promotion runs on Sundays in which patrons can receive buy-one-get-one deals on select items just by bringing in a ferry ticket or any other item featuring the words “Fire Island.”

“We love hosting baby showers, bridal showers, and even weddings,” said Crisci. “What’s most important though is that everything we serve is fresh.” After my recent visit, I can confirm that the team at FIV produces quality fresh food and drinks in a beautiful Fire Island-inspired shop. My guests and I can’t wait to return and bring friends.