Updated: Oct 26, 2018
For our first blog post I would like to take you behind the scenes of Bravino! Italian Wine Club. If you didn’t already know, I grew up in Italy. I’m from a small town in Tuscany called Montalcino, which is known all over the world for its breathtaking views and wine, Brunello di Montalcino (which is one of the bottles our Wine Club members received in the Tuscany shipment).
In 1994, when I was 8 years old, my family opened a restaurant in front of Montalcino’s fortezza (fortress). The restaurant was built in my grandpa’s old horse stable, right underneath their house.
Owning a restaurant is extremely hard work. My parents would be there for 14 hours a day, 7 days per week. As you can imagine, I grew up in the restaurant as a young boy. And since my parents were always working, my Grandma Bruna and Grandpa Rinaldo, who lived right upstairs, helped raise me.
My Grandma Bruna always loved to cook. She was cooking traditional dishes of Montalcino and the Tuscan region in particular, but she also liked to adventure in traditional recipes of other regions of Italy. My mom and aunt had always been good cooks, and they were the first cooks in my family’s restaurant, so most of the recipes for our restaurant came from the recipe book of my Grandma Bruna.
Our restaurant is called Osteria di Porta al Cassero. Osteria is a type of traditional, not too fancy, family style restaurant. The name translates to “the traditional restaurant by the door of the highest point of the fortification,” as our restaurant is right by Montalcino's fortezza. We offer very traditional dishes of the land of Montalcino, like home made pastas, soups, wild boar, rabbit, veal tongue, etc. The food is simple, yet delicious. Very Italian style.
I worked in the Osteria for most of my life, helping out as a little boy and even as a waiter in my teenage years. It was my first real job. I watched my grandma making pasta in the morning for the restaurant, my mom and my aunt cooking her dishes at the restaurant and my dad choosing the wine to pair with it. I became a Sommelier for this reason, to be able to enjoy all the wines in their best way, with food.
My whole life I have always be involved with people, food and wine. Montalcino, in particular, is an obligated stop for wine lovers. People come from around the world to eat traditional Tuscan food and pair it with our great wine, Brunello di Montalcino. I would always talk with the people who came to eat in our restaurant, hearing their thoughts and opinions about food and wine, but also about all their experiences. It allowed me to learn different languages and understand different cultures and people.
One day in the summer of 2011, I was working at our restaurant and I met Dario Sattui, the owner of Castello di Amorosa, a winery in Napa Valley. I was serving his table and he offered me a job at his winery, which is an authentically built 14th century medieval Tuscan castle that also functions as a winery focusing on Italian grape varieties and wines. As much as I love Montalcino, it was an offer and an experience that I couldn’t refuse. So in 2015 I left and came to live in Napa Valley, California for 18 months. It was here that I improved my knowledge of the customs in the US. I learned how people know wine, how they enjoy it and their idea of Italian wines. The main thing I try to teach my customers is to change this idea of being a “red wine person” or a “white wine person." Because in Italy there isn’t “I only drink red wine” or “I only drink white wine” or “I only like dry wine” or “I only like sweet wine.” What you drink is all about what you eat, and you can pair a wine that gives the right harmony to enjoy all the best characteristics of both wine and food together. If you tried each one separately it’s not the same. In Italy this is how we do it, and it’s a way of life. We drink wine with food; lunch, dinner or aperitivo. We drink all wine; white, red, rosè, sparkling, whatever! Every wine has a time and place.
And it was also at Castello di Amorosa where I met my wife, Carly. I fell in love with her right away. She was different, always easy going and carefree. And she too loves food and wine, and is certified in Wine & Spirits through the WSET. After my work visa had ended, I invited her to come with me back to Montalcino. She came to live with me for 3 months (as allowed on a tourist visa). While in Italy, we traveled all around visiting different regions and experiencing the local cuisine and wine. Carly was completely in awe. She had been to Italy many times before, but this was a completely different experience she told me. She ate food she never had before and tasted wines made of Italian grapes she never even knew existed. She explained to me how you cannot find these wines back in the United States. She said it was such a shame because she knew everyone back home would love these wines as much as she did. And that’s when the idea struck, Bravino! We thought it would be such a great joy to bring the best wines that Italy has to offer to you.
So this is why we created Bravino, an Italian Wine Club. We want to take you around Italy with our wines, giving you the experience to discover what makes each region special, telling you about the territory where the wine comes from, giving you the history of the wine and the winery and the best way to enjoy each bottle with a traditional recipe from the area, that highlights both the wine and the dish.
And many of the recipes that we present to our Wine Club Members to pair with our wines are from Grandma Bruna’s Recipe Book. My grandma was born at the beginning of 1900, so this generation in Italy barely knew how to write and read. When she was writing down her recipes she was super concentrated and precise. To make sure whoever was reading the recipe wouldn’t be confused with the hand writing she separated the words with periods. I show you a picture below so you can see what I’m saying. I know that she would be embarrassed to know that I’m showing you, but I hope she will understand. This is a part of one of the recipes for “Nonna Bruna’s Bolognese,” her famous Tuscan meat sauce for fresh pasta that we sent out to our Wine Club Members in the Tuscany shipment to pair with Col di Bacche's Morellino di Scansano.
I love this peace of paper. It shows how much dedication and attention she put into it.
During our journey of Italy, with each shipment of wines and unique region, we will discover more and more of Grandma Bruna’s recipes because I have it now... I have her recipe book!
Tommaso & Carly