Interview with Lorenzo Manfrè sommelier of the Il Braciere restaurant in Eraclea (Venice).
Il Braciere, as the name suggests, is a place that makes grilled cooking an art. In Eraclea, the small town located north of Venice and inserted in the metropolitan area of the Veneto capital represents one of the historic restaurants since it has been open under the same management since 1995. Il Braciere is located less than five kilometers from the coast of the lagoon but doesn’t offer fish but a lot, really a lot of grilled meat and game. Furthermore, for some years the kitchen has been enriched with some dishes that have accompanied its evolution from "bracieria" to restaurant.
“We only have a meat menu - tells us Lorenzo Manfrè who together with his brother opened this place 25 years ago. We specialize in grilled meat and game. Unlike all the other restaurants in the area where fish dominates, we have obtained this specialization. When we opened, in 1995, at least here in the area practically no one offered meat. Today things have changed a bit. Someone has started to propose it but this doesn’t worry us too much because our offer remains difficult to replicate on the quality and selection of meat.
In recent years, however, we have also begun to add some dishes to the grill as my brother and I have begun to specialize in both research and execution of the dishes. At the same time the cellar that I personally manage has also evolved. "
Today, if we talk about meat quality, the needs of customers are very precise. Where do you get supplies for the raw material?
“Our meat is sourced from a pool of around twenty suppliers. It is a list that is the result of many years of selection and research. We have something, but very little stuff, which comes to us from a small butcher in the area with a very interesting product, but we don’t work on the zero kilometer but on the selection of the best products from all over the world. One of our main suppliers is MrBeefy farms. The name is American but he is a young breeder from Mozzecane (in the province of Verona) who raises black Angus steers in the wild and in a natural way, grazing them outdoors on land once cultivated with corn but now converted to meadow natural.
The result is a truly extraordinary product, very interesting. Another important supplier is the Da Carlo butcher in Genoa in the Marassi area. That is the paradise of the best meat in the world. Here you can find the best of beef production from all over Europe (Austria, Bavaria, France, Ireland,…). Above all, we stock up on him for two extraordinary products: the 'Rubia Gallega', raised outdoors in the very green, humid and rainy pastures of the Spanish Atlantic coast and in the north of Portugal, and the Finnish Ayrshire, also raised in the wild and fed. mainly green grass ".
What about the wine list?
"Initially we had a rather limited wine list because we lacked knowledge a bit, then over the years wine has become a real passion for me, I got informed, I studied, I attended various courses and even the wine list has grown and embellished accordingly. Today we have more than 350 labels on the wine list ”.
How are these labels distributed?
“There is a lot of Veneto, of course, and a lot of Italy. In particular, given that it is a wine list that - apart from bubbles - is almost exclusively of reds, we have many Piedmontese wines, the Italian region par excellence of great reds, but also an important selection of French reds. In these days I have just returned from a tour in France in search of new labels. As far as bubbles are concerned, we do not offer the big Italian brands but a highly sought-after selection of lesser-known wineries where you can really drink well without spending too much. The white wine list, on the other hand, is really very basic in terms of choice. "
Were you among the first to believe in our program, when and how did you meet Enoweb?
“It happened about three years ago. I had gone to eat in an important starred restaurant and when I asked for the wine list they brought me, to my great surprise, a tablet with Enoweb inside. I must say that this discovery opened up a world for me. I immediately asked the sommelier for information on the program and a few days later the E-Group technician was in our cellar for the inventory and installation ".
How have things gone over these three years?
“What surprised me most positively is the way in which the program, which already represented a huge step forward for us, has continuously evolved and perfected. Today it is really a "bomb"…. in less than 25 minutes a wine list is created, already paginated, updated, packaged and ready to be printed. In addition, with all the information on the vintage, the denomination, the percentages of grapes ... all very important data, plus the advantage of the markup already calculated based on the percentage chosen by me when registering the bottle.
It may not seem like that but this is a very useful tool in our work because it avoids you incurring the risk of excessively low top-ups or, on the contrary, of proposing excessive top-ups by mistake or distraction. Which exposes you to the criticisms of more informed customers who may know the production price of a particular bottle, they realize that there is an excessive markup and this blocks them on the choice because they think that all the other bottles are excessively refilled.
So for a wrong label you risk compromising the entire sale of wine on a table ”.
What did you use before Enoweb?
“Before we used a classic Excel spreadsheet where - if only you had to go and change the description of a label - it really took an hour. It was enough to have to add or remove a little text that the whole layout was going to be blessed. To give you an example, before Enoweb a wine list lasted at least 4 or 5 years because in order not to have to change it every time, I omitted to write fundamental information, such as the vintage, because going to touch it every time were problems.
Enoweb really solves your life. To say ... let's say that this afternoon new references arrive, I take photos of the labels with the phone to remind me what to insert and then in the evening, at home, with the PC, in 20 minutes I did everything and the next morning I print the updated wine list.
Another thing that really blows you away is the fact that you find an incredible number of labels in the database. I'm not just talking about the labels of the most important and well-known wineries. You don't know how many times it happens to me, in my rounds in search of new wineries, to go and buy bottles from small producers (good but semi-unknown) and I always say, imagine if I find this label already loaded in the database…I only know this producer… and instead then I am promptly denied and I find the product already inserted, so to have my card updated with the new wine and all its technical information I just need to check it with the mouse. Write the number of bottles and choose the top-up percentage and in a few moments I have everything done including my selling price. Then in the rare cases where a label I have just purchased is missing from the program database, I just need to take a picture of the bottle, send it by e-mail to E-Group and at the latest within 48 hours I will find the data sheet in the program " .
What do you bring to your customers the classic physical wine list or the tablet?
“We still bring the paper wine list to the table. For the type of clientele we have and the fact of being seen as a 'historic' place this is still our choice, because the traditional wine list is seen as a direct emanation of the cellar, it is as if they felt the physicality of the bottles. I believe that my customers aren’t yet ready for digital, even if I must say that I personally tried it and found it really interesting and functional because it gives you the opportunity to search with multiple keys. In a few moments you can search by type of wine, by percentage of blend, by territory, by producer, etc. Here, perhaps, for wineries with a much more important number of references than ours, it is certainly an effective solution.
But unfortunately I see that there is still some resistance here even if rationally this is a tool that puts a lot of information in the hands of the customer and allows him to order with more knowledge of the facts ... however he knows are those things that especially in Italy are struggling to assert themselves. A bit like the question of the stelvin cap.
Abroad they have now understood that this cork has important advantages for the conservation of wine in the bottle and no one makes a fuss if a bottle, even a valuable one with a stelvin cork, is brought to the table, while with us, let alone if there is no ritual. some cork to be uncorked seems to bring wine from the supermarket to the table ”.
Is there still something you would like to say when recommending this program to your colleagues?
“Look, I wanted to tell my colleagues that they absolutely don't have to worry about the cost of having Enoweb. First of all because it is an absolutely sustainable sum but above all because they will immediately realize how much the program will save them in terms of time. It is a product that in my opinion solves once and for all the problem of having to make and keep up-to-date the wine list. It is no small thing to have the certainty of having an up-to-date wine list, correctly laid out, written without errors… and all this without having to go crazy. For those who have a cellar with a certain number of references, in my opinion this becomes an indispensable tool. Can't not have it!
I also dealt with more than a few colleagues who maybe use other platforms and showed them to me but they have nothing in common with Enoweb ”.
How are these other platforms different from Enoweb?
“They are different because many times they don't have the database with the label specifications pre-populated. So in the end, since you have to enter the data you are limited to being a page layout program. Then I saw others but they don’t have the functionality to publish the wine list even digitally and then in any case even when there are the data sheet they aren’t even numerically comparable to those of Enoweb and they don’t give you all the information you find on the E-Group’s program.
Look, I come to say that the expense is really not a problem and that the program pays for itself with the time you save, also due to the fact that it makes you sell many more bottles. To say, just the fact of finding over 80 thousand labels with information on the percentage composition of the different vines that enter a bottle is something that the customer likes so much because maybe he comes with the desire to drink a predominantly Merlot wine and with Enoweb can choose the most suitable bottle for itself ".
12th July 2019
Piergiovanni Mometto [www.mometto.net]