Italian restaurants drive the relaunch of Italian wine in the US

Mar 11 2022, 15:06 | by Lorenzo Ruggeri
A generous dose of energy, enthusiasm and optimism. This is what we bring  home every time we come back from our trip to US. And here we go again. After  two stops in California, Gambero Rosso's tour headed to Chicago, one of the shows that in the last years has grown the most among the […]

A generous dose of energy, enthusiasm and optimism. This is what we bring  home every time we come back from our trip to US. And here we go again. After  two stops in California, Gambero Rosso's tour headed to Chicago, one of the shows that in the last years has grown the most among the numerous ones in our calendar. The event, staged on February 23rd at the Bridgeport Art Center, gathered an influx and participation above all expectations, with many operators who reached the 'windy city' even from neighboring states and cities, confirming a passion and attachment that continues to surprise us, despite the many years of overseas travel. "This is the first big event on wine after the pandemic, today there is a special atmosphere because we are here with a different approach. It's great to see how many Italian producers have moved despite everything," comments the importer Michael D. Lo Duca. "Sales have never stopped, today I’m showcasing Tre Bicchieri wines in my portfolio, Chicago has responded strongly," adds Paolo Cerruti, distributor of Beivuma. Chicago's food and wine scene held up better than many other North American cities, with a few closures and several new establishments, including Gioia, a restaurant opened just a few months ago. "We wanted to propose something different, inspired by the classic Italian tradition, from paccheri al pomodoro finished in front of the customer to a proper cotoletta milanese. Then we have an Italian cocktail bar at the entrance and a deep wine list" tells us the chef and partner Federico Comacchio, awarded with the Two Forks and the Villa Sandi Best Contemporary Wine List Award.

Three days later, on February 25, the Tre Bicchieri Day took place at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York. 220 wine producers were attending with their wines, an absolute record. At the end of the day, we counted more than 2500 visitors, something unthinkable only a few months ago. "Midtown has suffered a bit, there are still closed stores, but the city is strongly recovering. We are working very well, Williamsburg is an increasingly appreciated area," says Francesco Panella, awarded with Two Forks. His family - the historic headquarters is in Rome, in the Trastevere district - celebrates 100  years in the restaurant business. "In recent years, between visa blockade and pandemic, a generation of Italians has jumped, we have a strong lack of qualified Italian staff, we could give work to many Italians and we are working with the chamber of commerce to find a solution. Right now all the new openings are pasta workshops and very simple places, but I'm sure there is room for more. We held our own during the pandemic by also selling very large bottles of Italian wine, and our loyal clientele has been our real strength", analyzes Gianfranco Sorrentino, owner of Il Gattopardo, since 2001 the most solid reference point for traditional cuisine in Manhattan, and president of the Gruppo Italiano, which brings together most of the Italian restaurants in the city. "I was surprised by how Franciacorta is moving on, the Consortium is displaying a solid project and a well-focused direction, even today's tasting showed an increasingly precise and defined style. It can really compete on the American market with a new strenght," Nunzio Castaldo, president of Panebianco Wines, told us. Among the new openings in town, La Devozione stands out, awarded Two Forks for its incredible rigor of flavors, a true hymn to Campania's cucina and traditions. The Villa Sandi Best Contemporary Wine List Award? It went to the D.O.C. Wine Bar in Brooklyn, with a smart, joyful list full of gems from Sardinia and Southern Italy.

On Monday, February 28, Boston closed the cycle of American stages. The tasting featured 50 wineries in the Cyclorama event space, in the heart of the Massachusetts city. In a gastronomic context certainly not favorable for Italian cucina, the average level is lower than elsewhere, Bricco stands out, awarded with a fork and the award for the contemporary wine list. "As soon as the pass controls were lifted, the whole of Boston's restaurant industry got off to a strong start, now you can breathe a different air," says Marco Caputo of pizzeria Mast', awarded with Two Slices. "I believe Boston was the most interesting stop among the US tour, 15 right contacts, I’m not focused on the quantity, but on the quality of the public and today I successfully worked, the trade is super professional. The whole tour was a wonderful experience, Chicago and Boston above all, when you present yourself in contest like this one, with Gambero Rosso and the best of Italy in one tasting room you have a different ability to penetrate the market", says Alberto Panero, sales director of the Piedmontese winery Diego Pressenda. The stop in Boston was also the occasion to award two restaurants from other states, Strega in Milford by Danilo Mongillo, in Connecticut, and Pasquale's Pizzeria Napoletana by Pasquale Illiano in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Two excellent examples of true Italian cucina that is spreading more and more throughout America, leaving the big cities and finding new and well-structured formats.

by Lorenzo Ruggeri

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