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A takeout focaccia Sicilia from Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. It includes olive tapenade, grilled, marinated vegetables and Provolone cheese on a bed of arugula.
A takeout focaccia Sicilia from Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. It includes olive tapenade, grilled, marinated vegetables and Provolone cheese on a bed of arugula. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
A takeout focaccia Sicilia from Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. It includes olive tapenade, grilled, marinated vegetables and Provolone cheese on a bed of arugula.
A takeout focaccia Sicilia from Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. It includes olive tapenade, grilled, marinated vegetables and Provolone cheese on a bed of arugula. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
The delicatessen at Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. Here you can buy antipasti, ham, salami, cheese and much more that goes great with wine. It is also a popular lunch or afternoon spot where you can get various focacce and panini.
The delicatessen at Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. Here you can buy antipasti, ham, salami, cheese and much more that goes great with wine. It is also a popular lunch or afternoon spot where you can get various focacce and panini. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
With the partial coronavirus lockdown in Germany, takeout is all that's available at Vinocentral in Darmstadt. This is a panini classico pastrami, with pastrami, barbecue sauce, honey-mustard cream cheese, fresh tomatoes and arugula.
With the partial coronavirus lockdown in Germany, takeout is all that's available at Vinocentral in Darmstadt. This is a panini classico pastrami, with pastrami, barbecue sauce, honey-mustard cream cheese, fresh tomatoes and arugula. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Guests enjoy wine, cocktails and coffee at Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany, on the last day of business before the partial lockdown in November. Although you can't enjoy a wine there at the moment, you can buy it by the bottle in the store or online for enjoyment at home.
Guests enjoy wine, cocktails and coffee at Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany, on the last day of business before the partial lockdown in November. Although you can't enjoy a wine there at the moment, you can buy it by the bottle in the store or online for enjoyment at home. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
An antipasti plate at Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. This one includes olives, fennel, grilled, marinated eggplant, an artichoke heart and goat cheese topped with balsamic cream and cranberries.
An antipasti plate at Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. This one includes olives, fennel, grilled, marinated eggplant, an artichoke heart and goat cheese topped with balsamic cream and cranberries. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
A glass of Cotes de Provence rose wine at Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany.
A glass of Cotes de Provence rose wine at Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
The list of open wines at Vinocentral on the last business day before the partial lockdown in November. Although you can't enjoy a wine there at the moment, you can buy it by the bottle in the store or online for enjoyment at home.
The list of open wines at Vinocentral on the last business day before the partial lockdown in November. Although you can't enjoy a wine there at the moment, you can buy it by the bottle in the store or online for enjoyment at home. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Vinocentral has a large selection of wines and other delicacies that can be bought on location or ordered online.
Vinocentral has a large selection of wines and other delicacies that can be bought on location or ordered online. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
A cappuccino at Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. The wine bar/delicatessen across from the city's main train station got its start 25 years ago as coffee bar, where you could enjoy an espresso or cappuccino, then select from a variety of roasts to drink at home.
A cappuccino at Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. The wine bar/delicatessen across from the city's main train station got its start 25 years ago as coffee bar, where you could enjoy an espresso or cappuccino, then select from a variety of roasts to drink at home. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
A glass of primitivo from the Puglia region of Italy at the Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. In the background is the city's main train station.
A glass of primitivo from the Puglia region of Italy at the Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. In the background is the city's main train station. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)

It was the last day of business before the November lockdown was to begin. On a balmy afternoon, Vinocentral was as crowded as it could be with social distancing rules in effect.

The place is a popular wine bar/shop/delicatessen in the shadow of the main train station in Darmstadt, Germany.

Vinocentral started out 25 years ago as a coffee bar that offered espressos and cappuccinos made from a wide selection of beans and roasts. Its proximity to the station and nearby office buildings made it a well-visited spot for a morning or midday shot of java.

When a bar, wine shop and a deli that offered antipasti, ham, salami, cheese and even truffles when in season were added, the place became an after-work hot spot.

Then the pandemic hit and brought on some changes. Seating is outdoor only, and you order your glass of wine at a takeout window. The store and the deli are for shoppers only, although you do order most of your food inside as well.

Appropriately for a wine bar, the drinks selection was ample and varied. There were reds, whites, roses and sparkling wines from Italy, France, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Portugal and Spain.

We chose a rose Cotes de Provence and a white grauburgunder from southern Germany. The rose was dry and tangy, while the grauburgunder — pinot grigio in Italy or pinot gris in France — was light and refreshing.

We found a bench with enough social distancing, sat back and people-watched as we enjoyed our drinks.

We ordered a mixed antipasti plate to accompany our next glasses of wine. We selected olives, fennel, grilled and marinated eggplant, an artichoke heart and goat cheese topped with balsamic cream and cranberries from the deli’s glass display case.

It was all very tasty and went well with what we were sipping — a white Lugana and a red primitivo, from Italy’s Lombardy and Puglia regions respectively.

We decided to get a bite to eat before heading home. To our dismay, all the paninis and focaccia were sold out.

To make up for it, the next week we headed back to Vinocentral and got the Sicilia focaccia with olive tapenade, grilled and marinated vegetables and Provolone cheese on a bed of arugula, and their panini classico with pastrami, jalapenos, barbecue sauce, honey-mustard cream cheese, fresh tomatoes and arugula, to go.

Everything was delicious. The ingredients in both sandwiches complemented each other well, making them a real treat for the taste buds.

We decided we’d have to do this all over again someday. Preferably sitting outside at Vinocentral. Without a coronavirus lockdown.

abrams.mike@stripes.com Twitter: @stripes_photog

Location: Platz der Deutschen Einheit 21, 64293 Darmstadt. Across from the main train station. (Hauptbahnhof)

Hours: 8 a.m to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; closed on Sundays and German holidays.

Dress: Casual

English menu: No, but most people working there speak English.

Prices: Not cheap, but most things are worth the price. Wines are from 6.50 euros to 10.90 euros for a 0.2-liter serving. An espresso costs 2 euros, a cappuccino 3.50 euros. Panini are 3.50 euros for a half or 6 euros for a whole roll. Focaccia starts at 5.50 euro. Antipasti prices vary.

Information: Website is in German at vinocentral.de, but the Facebook page can be read in English.

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