Irvine’s Postino WineCafé raises a (wine) glass to community

Postino WineCafé is known for its signature wine program.
Postino WineCafé is known for its signature wine program.
(Josh Corbin)

When Lauren Bailey, chief executive officer and co-founder of Upward Projects restaurant group, set out to open a wine concept, she wasn’t interested in just opening a restaurant. She wanted a place that was more community-driven than the average wine bar.

“We really wanted to create a place for the community to come meet,” said Bailey, “and I know that seems simple, but we wanted it to be a place you could just come and have a glass of wine if you wanted, you could come and have lunch, you could have a date night … we wanted the space to flex between a lot of different people’s needs.”

The former server partnered with former bartender Craig DeMarco to create their first concept inside a historic 1940s-era post office in Arizona in 2001, which inspired the name Postino.

“We typically take almost all exclusively older buildings that are in need of a restoration,” said Bailey. “We definitely try to do those whenever we can.”

Postino WineCafé has become known for its signature wine program and all-day food menu, letting the concept serve as a bar for some, a brunch spot for others and a family dinner place for others.

Outside Postino WineCafé at Irvine’s Park Place.
(Josh Corbin)

Today, Upward Projects restaurant group spans 24 restaurants and four brands besides Postino over five states. Their concepts include artisan ice cream shop Churn, a Phoenix neighborhood bar and restaurant called Windsor, Joyride Taco House and a wood-fired pizza parlor, Federal Pizza, housed inside a 1950s federal bank building.

The foundation of the company is revitalizing buildings as well as creating spaces integral to their neighborhoods and communities.

Other times though, Bailey said, the community is the driving force behind where Upward Projects opens a new spot, which is how Postino ended up in Orange County.

“In 2017 we took an investment from a California-based investor which has been really great for us,” said Bailey. “Naturally they were like, you guys have to come to California.”

Lauren Bailey, co-founder of the Postino brand and Upward Projects.
(Courtesy of Postino)

But rather than take her concept to Los Angeles, Bailey took Postino straight to Orange County.

“When we came to Irvine, it was evident that our people were there,” said Bailey. “We really fell in love with that community.”

Bailey said in talking to the community, she asked what kind of place residents wished for.

“We kept hearing, ‘We want a hangout spot, we want great wine, we want a place where you don’t have to order food, but you can if you want, we want shareable stuff,’” said Bailey. “We felt that a lot from Orange County, and we heard that loud and clear.”

Postino opened at Irvine’s Park Place on Michelson Drive, a new mixed-use dining and retail destination, back in December.

Postino Irvine opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday for brunch and closes at 11 p.m. most nights (10 p.m. on Sundays and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays). Besides an extensive wine list and craft cocktails, Postino has a menu of soups, salads, finger-food snacks like olives and grilled petite filet skewers and boards with options like bruschetta, charcuterie and cheese.

Postino WineCafé in Irvine is the brand's first California location.
Postino WineCafé in Irvine is the brand’s first California location.
(Josh Corbin)

Since opening, Bailey has made it Postino’s mission to integrate and support the O.C. community by holding fundraisers for local organizations like the Children’s Hospital of Orange County Foundation and the LGBTQ Center Orange County.

“Those are organizations that are near and dear to our heart, and supporting them is paramount,” said Bailey.

Postino, Irvine most recently hosted a give back event for CHOC.

“We did a give-back for every board of bruschetta, which is the thing we sell the most of by far,” said Bailey.

Bailey said she is looking forward to expanding in California and continuing to provide Orange County with a place to raise a glass.

“We get the privilege of creating the space where people come together to have some of their most important moments,” said Bailey. “We create the space where people get engaged, decided they are going to buy a house, take a job, meet a friend, go on a first date. We are lucky enough to be the backdrop of that.”

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