Today's interview features Gloria Rossi. For five years Gloria has been taking care of the cellar and the dining room of the Dal Contadino restaurant in Vo ’Euganeo, sharing the responsibilities with her boyfriend Andrea Ambrosi, son of Moreno, owner and owner of the restaurant.
Dal Contadino is a somewhat particular restaurant if placed in the context of Vo 'and the typical catering of the Euganean Hills from which it stands out for an elaborate and researched gastronomic and oenological offer, which wants to introduce quality products and raw materials from all over the world, enhanced by the sensitivity of a chef like Nicola Ambrosi trained at the school of large hotel catering, what the late Gualtiero Marchesi defined as "the best gym" for a cook.
Located in an enchanting position that - on the one hand - offers the view of the slopes of thew Mount Venda and on the other a suggestive view of the Berici Hills, inside a building consisting of an ancient peasant court recovered and restored. Dal Contadino is also characterized by the greenery that surrounds it and by the large outdoor and indoor spaces available to guests. These characteristics make it an ideal place for banquets which in fact represents an important sector of activity of this brand. But here - obviously - the wine offer is limited to a few labels.
Another issue, on the other hand, concerns the actual restaurant, where a concept of 360 ° attention towards the customer and his needs materializes, typical of the most modern catering and where not only as a support and enhancement of creative cuisine but also as a result of an in-depth research conducted internationally, a highly respected wine list with more than 800 labels from all over the world stands out.
Hello Gloria, would you like to introduce us to the Dal Contadino Restaurant, highlighting the aspects that make it special compared to the traditional gastronomic proposal of the Hills?
“The Dal Contadino Restaurant was initially born as a simple agritourism restaurant managed directly by Mr. Moreno Ambrosi, father of Andrea and Nicola, now respectively responsible for the dining room and the kitchen. This solution lasted for a short time because due to the high influx of customers it was not objectively possible to remain with this connotation which provides that a significant percentage of the raw materials come from the farm connected to the restaurant. After a few years, in fact, the restaurant was transformed into a restaurant with the classic gastronomic offer of the Euganean Hills area.
About fifteen years ago the management of the restaurant was taken over by the sons of Mr. Moreno who in the meantime had completed their training course."
Andrea and Nicola immediately chose to give the place a different imprint that would be able to bring out a more elaborate gastronomic proposal linked to an international eno-gastronomic perspective.
"It was a particularly daring bet because it wasn’t so obvious to propose gourmet cuisine in a highly popular geographical and cultural context in terms of tastes and gastronomic requests, and much less did it seem obvious to build a wine list with hundreds of labels where the most municipality stopped at the proposal of 3 or 4 wines sold mostly on tap.
I arrived here five years ago when the start-up phase of the restaurant was already over, but from the stories I hear this moment of change must certainly not have been easy. The choice of Andrea and Nicola was not understood by many, including the father who, however, expressing his perplexities, decided not to interfere respecting the decision of the children.
After the first two years we had lost almost all the historical customers who did not understand our cuisine, accustomed to the classic cuisine of the Euganean Hills that can be summed up in the bigoli and “galletto” formula. By choice, we have almost completely abandoned this tradition. "
If you had to tell us more about your gastronomic proposal, how would you describe it?
“First of all I want to talk about chef Nicola Ambrosi. He is the soul of our kitchen and it is from his personal experience that the dishes we offer are born. Nicola is only 28 years old, but he has a really long experience behind him. He is a tireless and passionate worker. Since he was a boy, he started to get busy in the kitchen of the family restaurant, following a real vocation that will then lead him to attend the hotel institute and to the first experiences in particular in the field of hotel catering where he learned to choose and work the great raw materials of international cuisine. After the training phase, Nicola has been permanently managing our kitchens for about 10 years.
His is a cuisine of 'openness' towards the discovery of products and flavors from all over the world. An important part of our work consists precisely in identifying high quality products that express the best of international gastronomy. We process raw materials that come from Japan, Spain, Australia and many other countries. Our menu consists of 50% fish dishes (another element very little present in the restaurants in the area). We have not completely abandoned the best raw materials of the area, but we have chosen to use them in a few gourmet dishes precisely to cover a gastronomic offer that we believe was completely lacking. "
He said earlier that initially the local public didn’t understand your proposal. Today, after more than ten years, how is your clientele made up?
“I tell you the truth, the local clientele, those fond of the classic cuisine of the Hills, has never returned. Some of them still happen by chance, especially on weekends, but they are still baffled by our gastronomic proposal. Over time, however, we have made a name for ourselves and our restaurant has become a reference point for a public more linked to the surrounding city centers. People who from a gastronomic point of view are more open to trying new proposals and who also travel hundreds of kilometers to come and eat with us. We have many loyal customers who come from Padua, Verona, Vicenza, Ferrara."
An important part of the 'diversity' of your gastronomic proposal is linked to wine. A wine list with a strongly international slant and with more than 800 labels is not easily encountered in those parts. How was your wine list born and why did you choose Enoweb?
"I want to specify first of all that the responsibility of the cellar falls on me and Andrea but Nicola, the chef, also has an important role, because he too is a sommelier and has been developing a study path for pairing for years optimal food-wine through its dishes. Our wine list therefore represents all this, it is the result of a collective research and it is an important element for us because it characterizes us and makes us almost unique in this territorial context. This is especially noticeable during the week from Monday to Friday. This is the moment when we sell the most important bottles and customers arrive who - as I have already said - also travel hundreds of kilometers to eat with us. On weekends and in particular on Sundays the public is mainly the average one who frequents the restaurants in the area, still linked to the clichet of the restaurant of the Hills ... with these people we still struggle to understand our peculiarity.
I met Enoweb because on my free day I love to try, together with my boyfriend, the best restaurants in our region and I saw that many of these bring the digital wine list to the table, created with Enoweb. So I was convinced that this could be a good solution for us too. Initially, my decision was viewed with a bit of skepticism because it meant abandoning one of the distinctive elements of our restaurant, our powerful paper wine list. Elegant and full of charm but which put us constantly at risk of making a bad impression on customers, because it was not possible to update it with the necessary frequency.
There were some concerns regarding the welcome that digital paper could have at the table, especially for more mature customers. But in the end we saw that wherever we went to high-level restaurants we were offered this card and therefore we decided to contact E-group for a product demonstration and to get an answer regarding the possibility of fulfilling some of our particular personalization needs.
I must say that I was convinced to purchase this immediately because we needed a tool that - beyond its function in the room - would be able to allow us to give a definitive order to warehouse management. "
And what was the result?
“We had the answers we were looking for but in reality we could do better, you know we have many waiters and not all of them - despite my constant recommendations - remember to unload the bottles sold every night. So I am forced to periodically do an inventory to catch up, but the operation takes a few minutes and the waste is always a maximum of a couple of bottles, usually among the best-selling ones. However, I realize that with my constancy, it will soon be natural for all my collaborators to perform this gesture automatically when the service is closed. "
How did you manage the wine list before Enoweb? How many did you have a simple Excel file?
"Look, before it was really a 'big mess' allow me the term. There was no Excel file but simply a wine list made with Word which was periodically updated, marking the differences and additions with pen and paper and then everything was transferred to the file and then paginated and printed the updated card. Today everything has changed, not only with regard to inventory control, but we are also given great help in terms of cost control and optimal order planning. "
Do you still bring the physical card into the room today?
"No, we haven't had the card printed anymore."
And what was the customer reaction?
“Perplexity… sometimes for even trivial reasons because certain habits die hard. At first it was enough to open the tablet in front of the customer. Certain moments when we were running for a while, we left the tablet to the customer without opening it. We bring it to the table inside an elegant leather cover that looks almost like an ancient book: - "here sir, this is our wine list" - and you would come back after a while realizing that they hadn't used it ... or sometimes confused the function of the 'little heart' that allows you to memorize more labels and then make a subsequent comparison before the final order ... interpreting it as a purchase order, in short, yes ... initially there were several episodes, some even quite funny, but then for the customers already from the second time everything went smoothly. "
Compared to before, with the introduction of Enoweb have you started selling in a different way?
"Absolutely yes. Since we have the new digital wine list, I have personally noticed an important increase in sales in particular for the most important labels, those that may have been lying in the cellar for a long time. Basically, we have significantly improved the turnover of especially valuable bottles.
I only tell you that - excluding the three or four labels we use for banquets, which we don't even load into the system - this weekend (from 24 to 26 July) we sold almost 50 bottles, even very important ones, which is significantly better than before. In addition, special labels are also sold that it used to take a lifetime to sell before. I'm not sure why this happens, but it happens.
It is probably the result of a set of factors such as the ease and depth of searching with keywords, the ability to memorize and then review multiple labels before the final choice, or the fact that with a digital tool there is more propensity to "play", to discover new things and there is even less awe than a powerful physical card.
The way in which the warehouse is managed has also changed significantly. I'm not just talking about the time saved but the many less thoughts that you have, being able to precisely control sales to estimate the needs, thus avoiding making unnecessary purchases. And then also in the dining room we are all more serene because there is no longer the risk of offering the customer a bottle that cannot be found in the cellar. The ability to control prices and manage markups has also helped us greatly to improve the efficiency of our sales. "
Why did you make this choice?
“The push to adopt Enoweb came mainly from me. Perhaps because I have a vision of the trade less tied to tradition than the other members of the Ambrosi family, who were initially more than skeptical, I would say curious to see if I was right.
You see, the wine list is one of the highlights of this place, we built it with a lot of passion and also with a pinch of madness. It wasn’t at all obvious that such a complex label proposal could be understood in a context where the wine offer is limited to a few labels, but where the bulk of the public is limited to the consumption of the classic "house wines".
It goes without saying, then, that our wine list, understood as a physical, elegant and powerful object, represented one of our pride. Abandoning it for a much more functional but less classic solution such as the digital wine list also represented a change from the point of view of the image.
Unfortunately, this same wine list that gave prestige to our restaurant involved many problems, this is because it was never completely updated and we were often forced to change the pages an enormous number of times, continuously risking to make a fool of our customers when it happened that the cellar lacked vintages rather than entire labels, which was absolutely not in our style and which we wanted to remedy. "
I would like to close this conversation with a direct question. If today you meet a colleague that you respect and who has a nice wine offer in your restaurant, would you recommend Enoweb?
"Sure! I have already done it and I will certainly do it again every time I have the opportunity. "
Piergiovanni Mometto [www.mometto.net]