February 1, 2019
How do you say Farewell in Portuguese?
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We’re so happy for him, but also feeling a little melancholy as we send Sommelier and Manager Bento Peixoto off into retirement. After all, Bento’s gracious, Hy’s hospitality has been unmatched in Winnipeg for over 30 years. That’s a lot of Saturday night celebrations, and enough birthdays, anniversaries, New Year’s Eves and Valentine’s Days to connect him irrevocably with our loyal Winnipeg clientele. He is indeed, part of the family.
When Bento arrived in Canada from Portugal in 1975, on a student visa, he lived in Toronto for a couple of years, but Winnipeg beckoned. He found a job in a local Portugese restaurant that happened to be close to the old Hy’s on Kennedy Street, so he often found himself serving Hy’s staff. Getting to know them, and listening to their stories, he set his sights on joining the team. But Hy’s is a tough place to get a foot in the door – after all, some employees stay for over 30 years! Patience and persistence paid off, and in the spring of 1985, Bento joined the Hy’s Winnipeg team as a server, eventually becoming the restaurant’s sommelier, maître d’, and Manager.
When asked to recount particular memories from his early days, Bento is quick to remark how special it was when Hy Aisenstat would visit – shaking hands with the staff and acknowledging their hard work. He fondly remembers the style of the day – much more glamorous than today’s casual diners. Ladies in fur coats, gentlemen always well dressed, big cigars, martinis…people gathered around the piano at the first stand-up bar in the city, singing and drinking and living large, well into the wee hours.
Bento is eternally impressed and appreciative of how the Chefs, first Mario and then his son Frank Vadacchino, and now Chef Jackie Hildebrand, have kept up with the volume of steaks on their grill. He observes that restaurant guests have become more knowledgeable over the years: “they understand the business more clearly and tend to be less demanding but with bigger expectations – they don’t mind the wait but are looking for the ‘wow’ factor”. He thinks the importance of the basics – food, service, atmosphere – hasn’t changed much, but the approach has. We’ve become more focused in our work, looking for ways to improve, evolve, and progress.
Looking back at his years with Hy’s, Bento is proud of his longevity, and his own personal growth. He was one of the first of four sommeliers in Manitoba, and has greatly enjoyed developing the Wine Spectator- recognized wine program, and coaching his staff to share his knowledge and passion. When pressed to reveal his own favourite region, it’s not Douro that comes to mind – he loves BC wines, and pinot noir is his go-to grape.
What’s next for Bento? He’ll head to his place in Portugal during our cold winters; he has some vines and fruit trees, and plans to make a little wine and savor a slower pace. But he’ll be back in Winnipeg for the warmer months, and hopefully for us, enjoying the occasional glass of wine at the Hy’s bar.
Bento, on behalf of the entire Hy’s family, our thanks and best wishes to you and your family for much happiness in the years to come.