THE LIFE OF A YOUNG SOMMELIER.

Il Mestiere del Gusto – our monthly appointment to explore the work, the visions and the passion of some young persons from the Italian fine dining business – this month presents an interview with the sommelier Fabrizio Franzoi, a young and passionate wine professional.

Our Marta met him in Verona for breakfast: because both of them share a huge passion for fine food and wines!

It’s the second time that Fabrizio and I meet: we got to know each other last April at Ristorante Perbellini in Isola Rizza, where he used to work as maitre and sommelier. Today we are having breakfast together in Verona at the famous pastry shop Flego in Stella street – yes, Fabrizio and I share the same passion for excellent food…and wine of course!

Born in the area of Vicenza in 1982 now working in the province of Verona, Fabrizio always strikes me with his aplomb: I really envy the elegant sobriety of his aspect and manners; his shyness, however, disappears as soon as we get to talk about the professional sommellerie, which he deeply loves.

While accurately observing the red fruit mousse he’s just got, Fabrizio starts to tell me about his job; he doesn’t need any question, he is now just letting words come out and I can barely write all the necessary notes.

“People are genuine when eating; our job gives us the privilege of encountering people in their essence and to offer them real emotions. This is why being a sommelier is the best job one can strive for”. How can a sommelier create authentic “wine” emotions? Firstly with an empathetic sensibility for the needs of the clients, that a professional sommelier must understand and interpret in the shortest time possible. Of course, knowledge and professionalism are essential in order not to disappoint the guests but expertise has to be mitigated by humility:” We need to be curious and we shouldn’t miss any opportunity to learn from colleagues or from customers too! It’s time to defuse the idea of sommeliers being formal and the belief that enjoying wine while having dinner is just for  experts “ Fabrizio declares – “During my working experience at Perbellini I decided, for example, to serve half glasses and beers so that everybody could feel free to enjoy not only food but also excellent drinks”.

As the second pastry comes I finally manage to ask my first question: I want to know more about the “behind the scenes” of being a sommelier so I ask Fabrizio to describe me his working routine. “I get to the restaurant at 10 a.m. and have coffee”; “not bad!” I think; “I have coffee to check if the machine is clean and the coffee powder is perfect; then I check the stocks, the reservations, the planning of the day and meet the vendors. Before lunch or dinner I check the mise en place, the clothing of the staff and I give all te instructions for the service; this is a very important moment to me because this is when the staff becomes a team, broadens its skills and shares a working philosophy. Last but not least a personal priority in my daily routine is that of finding time to study and to plan”. A hard job!

I benefit from a short moment of silence and ask further:”How will the job of sommeliers change within the next ten years?”. Fabrizio has no hesitation and answers my question with all the expertise he has, having worked in the field for more than 15 years:”The sommeliers of the future will need to have an international approach; they need to know what happens in the food and wine industry worldwide and be ready to face the challenges of a restaurant industry that will get more and more contaminated from foreign cooking traditions. It is thus clear that a sommelier vocational training is as necessary as the perfect fluency at least in English, as well as the willingness to interact with colleagues from all over the world. I’m quite confident that in the next few years our job will develop into that of the food and beverage manager, having however this role consistent consultancy and training aspects. It will be a challenging but stimulating evolution!”

I definitely agree with him; having that said, I’m sure that food and wine will always be amazing emotion catalysts for both consumers and field professionals; this is why I love to think that future sommeliers will take on the challenge with passion and commitment.

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PLEASURE AND SUBSTANCE.

We are thrilled to announce a brand new column of our blog: Il Mestiere del Gusto will be a monthly appointment to explore the work, the visions and the passion of some young persons from the Italian fine dining business: chefs, maitres, sommeliers, restaurant managers will unveil us the backgrounds of a beloved industry.

For the first interview our Marta slipped in the kitchen of the restaurant Alla Pergola in Sarcedo (VI) to capture the chefs Alex De Anna and Santo Panariello at work and to understand what happens behind the scenes of a fine dining restaurant. Here it is what she found out.

A journey through Italy in 50 squared meters: Alex, born 1989, Venetian with an important working experience in Michelin starred restaurants in Trentino, is a fine meat and fresh pasta expert and a passionate butter supporter; Santo, born 1990 in Naples but grown in Tuscany, trained by Ilario Vinciguerra, committed to bakery and pastry-making, is the defender of fish and olive oil. Both Alex and Santo work as chefs at the historical restaurant Alla Pergola in the province of Vicenza; formerly a famous location for banquets and feasts, Alla Pergola is now evolving into a fine dining restaurant thank to the experience and the creativity of the new chefs.

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Alex and Santo love the traditional Italian cuisine but they revise it with a modern eye; a touch of modernity is found in the traditional venetian dishes that keep their original taste but are prepared with modern cooking techniques to develop new, fresh textures: for the chicken liver soup the chefs let the hen broth simmer for 24 hours, prepare an egg puff pastry – steamed yolk finely sliced – to simulate the “tagliatelle”, use the boiled hen meat to create tiny fried meatballs and add drops of homemade chicken liver paté.

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Modernity also manifests in all those dishes mixing the different origins and views of the chefs: the tastes from Northern Italy’s cuisine are contaminated by southern ingredients and flavor and result in original dishes that let us travel through Italy with a mouthful. An example? The amazing pappardelle with nettle and smooth clams: the preparation of the fresh pasta takes about one hour and a half and alternate kneading and drying phases to get coarse and full-bodied pappardelle; the sauce celebrate the atavic venetian tradition of cooking with wild herbs and plants and make it modern and sophisticated with the “marine” tastiness of the raw smooth clams. “Appearance is important but we aim at pleasure and substance “ Santo says “ with our dishes we of course try to affect our guests but at the same time we want to let them enjoy fine dining in an easy, immediate way”.

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The modern guest ask us to be at the forefront: for example, it is of utmost importance to devote some time to personally meet our customers and to listen to their feedbacks” tells me Alex when I ask his opinione about the modern fine dining world “ but what the tv shows us about working in the fine dining industry is far apart from the reality. Being a chef requires self-denial and dedication: our job is highly competitive and complex and cooking is just an aspect of it! A chef needs to be confident with purchasing, prices, food cost analysis, staff training and coordination without neglecting the most important thing: the quality of what we serve to our guests”.

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It’s 11 p.m. The shift went perfectly and the restaurant is almost empty: I let the staff relax and enjoy the calm atmosphere after a long woking day. Of course I can’t wait to taste the winter menu so we decide to have another chat during the Christmas time!

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WARM, INTENSE, ENCHANTING. IN OTHER WORDS: AUTUMN!

Not yet winter, no longer summer: autumn cuddles us with the summer holiday reminiscences and attracts us with the promise of winter’s freezing but merry days.

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Even though temperatures and weather in October aren’t so extreme in Italy, fall has definitely its own identity when it comes to colors and tastes: nuances ranging from core to rust and red-purple that remind us of the color of the earth and its warmth; and the first fruits and their intense flavors to be fully enjoyed in their – short – seasonality.

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Sweet and bitter are the north and the south of Italy’s autumnal tastes, together with some sour hints: in our markets you’ll find pumpkins of all shapes, the first head of red radicchio, chestnuts and pomegranates offering you an explosion of wonderful colors; and now that the summer heat and its frugal meals are over, Italy gets back to its culinary traditions and start to cook again.

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As the temperatures get low and the days shorter, we all start to appreciate again the warmth of our homes and gathering around a crackling fireplace: in this atmosphere chestnuts can’t be forgotten. In Italy we pick them with our families and friends during the warmest hours of the day and we boil them or roast them with a particular pan that has a pierced bottom. However, if you want to test something new, add to your chestnuts a small piece of aged goat cheese and a sip of a sweet passito wine, such as Recioto di Gambellara o Torcolato and let us know what you think about the pairing.

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Autumn can definitely be sweet and cheerful but if you can’t help regretting summer, the scent of the sea and its tastes why don’t you indulge in a selection of raw fish – oysters, fish eggs, shellfish, carpaccio – and dare! How? We suggest you to enjoy the fish with a high quality gin. Our selection is the Tanqueray Rangpur that magnificently pairs with the raw fish thank to its marked citrous scent.

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Buon appetito and cin cin!

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FACE TO FACE WITH THE WINEMAKER. INTERVIEW WITH THE WINERY BOSCODIVINO.

Before the harvest starts, we’ve spent a hole morning with Denis, winemaker in the DOC area of Breganze, to ask him how his winery gets ready for the most decisive moment of the year.

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Welcome at Boscodivino

On the hills of San Giorgio in Perlena, a village in the province of Vicenza, there is the very first organic and vegan winery of the DOC area Breganze; it is called Boscodivino and was founded in 2013. A small production – about 5000 bottles per year and only three wines, a spumante, a white wine from the local grape variety Vespaiola and a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – with an excellent quality, that is the result of a meticulous viticulture, as Denis – one of the owners – told us during a highly interesting interview.

“We are very often told that we care about unimportant details and that we too often sacrifice quantity for quality; but this is exactly Boscodivino’s philosophy! Our aim is to harvest grapes that are at their best so that we don’t need to operate a lot on the must after the harvest. Our wines are the results of the efforts we make in the vineyards and not in the cellar”.

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Merlot grapes after defoliation

Thank to the strict organic and vegan standards that Boscodivino implement in its vineyards, there is not too much to do before the harvest: “On the red grapes we practice a light defoliation, not only because we want to make the picking of the grapes faster, but because we want to have dry and healthy grapes. We keep on checking the ripening profile of the grapes with frequent chemical analysis: we check the sugar level of course but also the organic acids content, because we need to preserve freshness- an importante feature in our wines, that have to last in time and be very pleasant to drink”.

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Vineyards before mowing

Now – August, 30 – the vineyards at Boscodivino are a knot of leaves, grapes ad grass: “We don’t weed, so a couple of days before the harvest we need to mow“ says Denis “ f we harvest on different days we also mow on different days”. Last but not least, the preparation of the harvesting crates: “We accurately wash the bins before any use to avoid any contamination. The crates for the spumante grapes have perforated bottoms; any moisture can drain out from the bins and thus we prevent any unwanted fermentation”.

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Different harvesting crates for different grapes

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FOOD AND WINE PAIRING: RULES ARE IMPORTANT BUT…EMOTIONS TOO!

On the internet there are tons of webpages suggesting us how to pair dishes and wine, with harmony between food and wine deriving from the perfect contrast of opposing food and wine features; but are we really sure it’s all a matter of balance

Almost everybody knows that ‘contrast’ is the pairing principle to match salty food and wines  while desserts are always served with sweet wines: we will thus contrast the sapidity of e.g. Parmigiano Reggiano with the sweet notes of a passito and pair a slice of Tiramisù with a gorgeous Marsala.

food-travel-wine-tours-tasting-culinary-gastronomy-experience-tourism-veneto-trentino-lake-garda-italian-tiramisùHowever, we sometimes love to bend the rules, mostly when we are on vacation, enjoying a romantic weekend or when traveling around the world for business. Traveling gives us the chance to taste new dishes and unheard wines in new contexts, in specific moments of the years or with a peculiar state of mind or feeling.

Every village in Italy has its typical product or a traditional recipe: so why not indulging in a traditional matching, a food and wine pairing that has established itself through time and  local traditions, such as costolette d’agnello a scottadito – grilled lamb chops – and Frascati Superiore in Lazio or the Ligurian style rabbit with the traditional Rossese di Dolceacqua.

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Let’s now imagine the foggy autumnal weather, a rainy November day or a beautiful ski-holiday on the Dolomites: after outdoor activities at low temperatures we will definitely appreciate rich dishes and alcoholic, aged red wines that reinvigorate both body and soul. The mild temperature of the Italian Spring, its early produces or the light Italian summer recipes – pasta-dishes or fish courses typical of our coastline – lead us to prefer white or young wines with a lower alcohol content that we drink fresh. Wine naturally adapt to the seasons with the so called seasonal matching.

Last but not least, the psychological matching, our favorite pairing principle! With this technique food and wine are paired basically taking into consideration the situation in which they are served. Special occasions, important moments in someone’s life or peculiar emotions deserve different wines than a dinner with friends or a business lunch. Can you imagine how beautiful it might be to drink again, after long time the wine you drank during the first date with your loved one? No matter what you’ll be eating, that specific wine will let you live that precious emotions again.

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So: foodies, wine enthusiast and curious travelers, don’t forget that wine is emotion first of all and that wine passion goes beyond any rule or theory. Anybody can find a favorite food and wine pairing: you just need to stay curious, always!

And now, tell us: which is your favorite food and wine matching?

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A FIRST DATE WITH THE WINE: A TRIP INTO THE ITALIAN WINE WORLD TO DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF WINE MAKING IN AN ANCIENT VILLA.

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Let’s imagine an elegant villa from the XVII Century, a majestic park and the gentle slopes of the Berici hills; on the background the blue summer sky and the fascination of history that fills the air. A dream? Not at all!

This is the atmosphere at Villa di Montruglio, the venue of our next event: a wine seminar for those of you loving wine and willing to finally approach the basic information about viticulture, wine making and wine tasting in a magical  location.

Our “first date” will start in the vineyards: during the stroll among the beautiful and luxuriant vines of Villa di Montruglio we will discover the local terroir and understand what it means to be a winemaker; an intrusion in the nature to sense the delicate and fascinating balance between men and the environment

From the beauty of nature to the beauty of architecture the step is short! After the stroll our seminar will continue in the Olympus Room of Villa di Montruglio. In this second phase we will understand what happens when the grape reaches the wine cellar: we will unveil you the secrets of wine making and you’ll discover how white, red and sparkling wines are produced.

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After so much theory we will then move on to the practice with a wine tasting! We will guide the tasting using an educational approach in order to give you the basic skills that are necessary to evaluate the wine – useful and practical information that you might use when buying a bottle in a wine shop, when enjoying an aperitif or sharing some wine with your friends during dinner.

The appointment is for Sunday, July 30 at 6 p.m. in Mossano, a rural village not far from Vicenza; Villa di Montruglio will exceptionally be open to the public thank to the initiative “FAI un giro in Villa” organized by FAI giovani Vicenza. 

IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU ARE TRENDY, POSH OR UNCONVENTIONAL: THE HISTORY OF THE APERITIF IS ALSO YOUR BUSINESS!

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If you think of the Italian Dolce Vita you’ll definitely see yourself sipping a good “aperitivo” at the sunset at Rialto in Venice or in front of the Colosseo.

After a busy day Italians very often indulge in a cocktail, in a glass of spumante or in a pint of artisanal beer and tourists from all over the world love to share this tradition when they are on vacation in Italy.

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For sure tourists have their tastes: some prefer to order trendy drinks, others enjoy the sophisticated Italian sparkling wines, some simply can’t avoid to have a beer. No matter what you decide to order, the “Aperitivo time” will certainly be part of your next Italian trip.

Now, the question is: can you guess who invented the aperitif?

We know it’s hard to believe but we have to thank the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates for discovering that serving a bitter drink to people suffering of lack of appetite would help them to eat more easily.

The vinum hippocraticum was prepared by macerating bitter herbs and flowers in sweet wine and was served before the meals; its bitter notes helped to “open” the stomach (from the Latin aperire) and let the patients eat more and thus recover more quickly.

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Italy’s most classic aperitifs such as Vermouth, Ramazzotti, Martini, Bitter clearly reveal their connection to the Latin aperitivus, as they are still produced by infusing spirits with bitter herbs and spices.

Straight, mixed in a Negroni or in an Americano or as ingredient of one of the several versions of the Spritz: it is up to you to decide how to enjoy the Italian most classic aperitifs. However, next time that you’ll order an aperitivo, don’t forget that you’ll be relishing more than a drink – you’ll be relishing a sip of history!

Cheers…or rather: cin cin!

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