BY Dustin Fitzharris

In the heart of Hell’s Kitchen on Ninth Avenue lies Ooviña, the gay-owned wine and tapas bar that serves as an enchanting retreat from the hustle and bustle of New York. 

Owners and husbands Stephan Hoover and Giovanni Morales have a long history in the neighborhood. They owned Market Cafe, the restaurant that previously stood in the same location. They opened Ooviña to appeal to the younger demographic that has found its way into the neighborhood and revitalized its energy.

“It seemed like the perfect time for Market Cafe to get a complete makeover,” explains Hoover, who tapped into his background in visual merchandizing and design to create the sexy, modern space. Ooviña’s dining room is canopied in hand-painted grape vines and softly lit with purple LED lighting. A 20-foot theatre scrim displays time-lapse photography of vineyards and iconic New York locales.

Meanwhile, Morales was able to infuse his Central American heritage into the menu.  “People like to share, discuss and photograph their meals on social media these days,” he explains. “Our large variety of sumptuous tapas are perfect for that.”

Ooviña also offers a wide variety of cocktails, champagnes and wines, plus a bottomless cocktail brunch every Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Their take on a Kir Royale champagne cocktail, made with an assortment of homemade preserves, marmalades and compotes, is a particular delight. It comes in flavors from pomegranate to mandarin mint.

We’d be remiss not to mention the freshly pressed gentlemen in purple-buttoned shirts and bowties.  Besides adding eye candy to the overall ambiance, the waitstaff are knowledgeable on the menu and extremely helpful in pairing cocktails or wine that will best complement the tapas.

The restaurant is the shared dream of Hoover and Morales, and the couple believes it has been the key in preserving their love. Of course there is another secret.

“At the end of the day, we both know there are wine bottles all around,” says Morales. “Perfect to grab and knock over the head if the other steps out of line.”

496 Ninth Ave. NYC
@ 38th St.