Real Food, Real Friends
Elk Mound bistro entices, with pizza, sweets, drinks
As a young and exhausted teacher, there are very few things that can convince me to stay up late on a school night. But pumpkin swirl cheesecake and good conversation will do the trick, both of which were delightfully offered to me by Dina and Galen Babb, owners of a new Chippewa Valley business called Vino Cappuccino.
On Aug. 23, Dina and Galen officially opened their artisan bistro, located on a beautiful hobby farm near Elk Mound. Galen served as a U.S. Marine for more than two decades, which means that the Babbs have spent years bopping around to new places (e.g., the East Coast, Hawaii, and Japan). Through the years of relocating and resettling, the Babbs quickly realized that the way into the hearts of new communities and new friends was, of course, through their stomachs.
This simple life lesson has now turned into a new business for the couple. It’s the kind of place where you disconnect in order to reconnect. Dina puts it best: “We wanted to create a place where people would come and connect with each other on a real, personal level. Like when you watch Friends and they all hang out in that coffee shop. That’s what we wanted. We wanted to create a place like that where people come and just feel like friends.”
The venue includes a bistro with artisan foods such as wood-fired pizzas, paninis, salads, and soups that use ingredients from local businesses such as Valley Pasture Farm (yummy gyro meat) and Consuming Fire Pizza (the artisan dough). They also offer local craft beers, iced teas, and lemonade. Fun fact: The pizza oven was imported straight from Italy, which is probably why it seems to cook those zas to absolute perfection.
Though the bistro is an experience itself, the real magic happens inside the 1901 foursquare home. The original kitchen was converted into a coffee shop that offers drip coffee, lattes, blended drinks, smoothies, and rotating homemade quiche and cakes (prepared by a particularly skilled staff using Dina’s personal recipes). Wisconsin’s own Backroads Coffee of Hayward supplies all things caffeinated.
If you manage to peel yourself away from Dina’s sweets, you’ll find the tasting room offers local wines from Autumn Harvest Winery, Infinity Beverages, and River Bend Vineyard & Winery. Just past that there’s a library and a spacious front porch where guests can eat or hang out. The craftsmanship of the home is strangely familiar and incredibly welcoming, sure to make any guest feel as if they’ve been there a hundred times before. With a gazebo, patio, fire pit, and farm animals, I can’t think of a better place to properly watch a Wisconsin sunset.
My favorite part: the hospitality and passion of the owners and staff, which was made clear in our nearly three-hour hangout session (I think we’re all friends now). The Babbs built their business upon three values: connect, support, and impact. Vino Cappuccino does all of these things through working with local food and beverage suppliers, hosting local musicians, featuring different artists each month, and financially supporting local nonprofits. And to make things clear, Vino Cappuccino isn’t pretending to be anything it’s not. “We’re just an authentic Wisconsin farmhouse,” Dina clarifies. “We’re not a vineyard. We’re not a winery. We’re just a place that supports local growers and local people.”
With a location this great, plans for private events and a possible bed and breakfast are in the future. But for now, the Babbs are focused on enticing more of the community with all they have to offer.