Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photographer / Cindy Heigl
When Rochester native Alissa Ferro and her husband Luis decided to open Uncorked Beer & Wine Bar, they knew their concept would include cuisine inspired by the Cuban dishes Luis grew up enjoying, courtesy of his mother and grandmother. However, they wanted to go even further to bring something unique to Rochester.
“We wanted to have that Cuban part of it, but also have a fun, inviting place where people can come and relax,” says Alissa, who co-owns Uncorked with Luis.
While working in the restaurant business down in Florida, Alissa met Luis, a Tampa native and first-generation Cuban-American, in a Naples-based Irish pub where they both were employed. Through the years, the couple discussed various ideas for opening their very own establishment, and it was a trip to the Napa Valley that further inspired that dream.
“We had such a great time out there and on the plane ride back from Napa we decided we wanted to own our own wine bar,” Alissa recalls. “We always wanted to be our own bosses.”
In 2012, while still living in Florida, the Ferros purchased a commercial space on Main Street in Rochester, with an eye toward eventually launching a bar and eatery that would reflect the couple’s passion for wine, beer and Cuban dishes.
Over the next five years, they refined their concept and undertook market research throughout the Rochester area before officially opened the doors to Uncorked in September of 2017.
Luis, who currently serves as head chef at Uncorked, offers several Cuban dishes, some with a twist — you’ll find traditional Cuban sandwiches, shrimp sofritos and braised flank steak among the entrees, as well as appetizers like a local cheese board, black bean soup bowl, and bread and butter. In case you’re wondering, it’s not your typical restaurant bread roll with wrapped pads of butter — we’re talking savory chorizo sausage butter and toasted Cuban bread here.
“It’s kind of funny because two things that aren’t actually Cuban – our tacos and our sushi – are actually our big sellers,” Alissa says. “We put a Cuban twist on them, so maybe that’s why people have taken to them.”
A diverse red and white wine list and Indiana-based craft beers comprise the drink menu, and last fall Uncorked won a grant to pursue an alcohol license that includes liquor. Consequently, the Ferros will be able to add cocktails to their drink menu in the near future.
“Our plantain chips have been a huge success,” Alissa adds. “We serve those instead of French fries or potato chips with our sandwiches. We slice and fry them here in-house, made to order, and serve them with our sofrito mayonnaise which is kind of our signature sauce. People love it and it’s been a surprise hit that we didn’t expect.”
Cuban inspiration adorns the walls as well as the plates — the Ferros put up Cuban artwork, accumulated from numerous trips to Cuba, as well as local artwork, much of which is available for purchase.
Weekly special-event nights include taco specials on Mondays, Bring-your-own-record music night on Wednesdays (any genre is welcome), and Ladies Night with live music and food and drink specials on Thursdays.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support — I have friends and family here, and we’ve grown a big base of regulars, which is really nice,” Alissa says. “And after almost two years we’re still growing and getting people who have never been here.”
Alissa says it’s Uncorked’s unique, lively and colorful atmosphere and visual aesthetic, as much as its cuisine and drink menu, that keeps locals coming through the door.
“The Cuban food is our niche, but our setting is really welcoming, comforting and I think something unique to Rochester,” she says. “We have a lounge with couches, family dining and a bar, and it really feels like the Caribbean with salsa music playing. There’s something for everyone.”
Visit Uncorked Beer & Wine Bar at 527 Main Street in Rochester, Ind. To view a full menu, hours of operation, a reservation page and more, go to rochesteruncorked.com and for additional info call 574-223-9866.