Beverage Director & Co-Owner of dell'anima, L'Artusi & Anfora
You went to New York University, what did you study while attending that led you where you are today?
When I attended New York University I studied European Studies as an undergrad and Food Studies for my masters degree. Although I loved my time at the school my biggest education came from living in NYC where I was able to go to farmers markets, shop at specialty food stores and visit some of the best restaurants in the world. Living in New York City is the greatest education someone in the food industry can hope for.
Before becoming a restaurateur, where did your passion for wines and spirits derive from and what were your steps to becoming a master sommelier?
I first became interested in wine when I attended a free wine tasting at a local store, my freshman year at NYU. I started going to tastings at that shop every week and was amazed by all of the different wines and loved chatting with the importers. Then when I studied abroad in Madrid and Florence, I was able to see how wine was an important cultural part of their everyday lives, which fascinated me and gave me much joy. When I got back to New York I took a class taught by Linda Lawry from the International Wine Center and got a job at The Italian Wine Merchants and was hooked from then on.
After becoming a sommelier at Babbo, you went on to become an owner and restaurant manager, which seems like a huge step, was it a smooth transition?
I have learned so much along the way. A lot of it was by making mistakes and learning from them. There was a huge leap from sommelier to restaurant owner. I was 23 years old with an enormous amount of energy and was aided by incredibly talented people.
Have any mentors or someone who really inspired you to become the success story you are today?
The work ethic of my business partners August Cardona and Gabe and Katherine Thompson along with the fact that they are all great people who treat people well inspires me every day.
With so many wonderful wines out there, explain the process of developing a wine menu. How do you choose, stay within a budget, and is there something for everyone?
Choosing wines for the list is one of the most fun parts of the job! I taste every wine that goes on our lists and work with our Assistant Beverage Directors to make sure that we are covering all of our wine styles and price points so that we can accommodate the palates of many different diners.
Where do the ideas come from to creating signature cocktails? Are you using any micro-brews or local breweries?
The cocktail programs are a team effort. Our many talented bartenders come up with the lion’s share of our cocktails and once in a while I’ll put one of my own drinks on. We also have a resident beer expert in house, our Director of Operations Kevin Garry. Putting a good beverage program together simply must be a team effort.
Are your restaurants using any local farmers and what steps were taken towards sustainability, particularly in this economic environment?
All of our restaurants are 3 star Green Restaurant Associate certified and working towards sustainability is an ongoing effort. We even have hired someone in house, Amelia Ekus, our Director of Community Development, to help us with sustainability.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to be working on our current restaurants and working on a few more with our great team!