The 'Confessions of a cellarman in love'

Interview with Nicola Storti, manager of the cellar and administrative consultant of the restaurant La Taverna di Colloredo.

The restaurant La Taverna di Colloredo was founded in 1979 by Piero Zanini and Vinicio Sant. Zanini and Sant came from the legendary Boschetti in Tricesimo which in its golden years was awarded two Michelin stars when the Italian brands that could boast this rating were just a dozen.

Nicola Storti

photo by Eunice Brovida - tundrastudio.it

The Taverna at the time was nothing more than a small country restaurant that stood at the foot of the fourteenth-century castle of Colloredo, former home of Ippolito Nievo. Here Zanini and Sant choose to propose a cuisine of research and great attention to the quality of the ingredients to meet the changed gastronomic needs of an audience of entrepreneurs and professionals who in that period - in parallel with the great economic development of the region - was orienting towards a more international taste. The formula works right away and La Taverna immediately becomes a trendy place. But it wasn’t just about fashion because today, after over forty years and after having survived unscathed periods of economic boom and crisis, La Taverna is still an essential point of reference for all lovers of gourmet cuisine in the North East and beyond.

La Taverna won the Michelin star in 1997 thanks to the arrival of Andrea Berton, then very young but who already had important experiences in the brigade of Gualtiero Marchesi and then in London, and at the Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence alongside Carlo Cracco.

However, Berton's passage to Colloredo was not a simple meteor but triggered a renewal process that involved the entire structure and which in some ways continues today. So when in 2001 the chef from San Vito al Tagliamento decided to return to Milan recalled by his teacher Gualtiero Marchesi La Taverna continued to shine with its own light, managing to keep the star for all these years until the umpteenth reconfirmation of these days.

In the difficult months starting from March 2020, La Taverna is facing another moment of transition with the abandonment of the historic patron and founder Piero Zanini due to the age limit. Leading the venue after the founder's departure is a pool of young and established professionals. The direction is entrusted to Lara Minisini, the room to Jacopo Gerussi who, despite his young age, works with the skill of a veteran. Ivan Bombieri, chef and pastry chef, is born in Verona but perfectly integrated with the reference territory, he creates dishes capable of enhancing the great products of a region which, despite its limited size, ranges from the sea to the lagoons and from the plains to the mountains. To complete the organization chart, the protagonist of our interview is Nicola Storti, manager of the cellar and - more generally - 'all-round' advisor of the restaurant with a strong passion for everything related to the world of wine.

"Of course - recalls Nicola Storti - a few things have changed in these four years since I started collaborating with La Taverna. Piero Zanini has recently retired and the ownership of the place has been strengthened with the entry of a new company and new partners, among which I too. This has allowed us to face this moment of crisis by relying on new resources. And of course, the management part has also been renewed by adapting to the needs of a modern restaurant business and this renewal is witnessed, among other things, by the introduction of more modern management tools including, in fact, Prenota-web and Enoweb."

The tavern uses both Enoweb and Prenota-web. When did you introduce the two programs?

"Basically from the reopening after the first lockdown that is from the 1st of June 2020. We have chosen to adopt both programs precisely because the criticalities of this period required us to hasten the renewal process we had already started."

La Taverna

Is it possible to define your standard customers? Also to understand the reasons that led you to choose our programs?

"We basically have two types of customers. One is the Austrian customer who comes to us to find great hospitality and high-level cuisine, even experimental, which however in some way must always be recognizable for its link with the territory. On the other hand, the most important slice is represented by a gourmet clientele from the surrounding provinces of Friuli and Veneto. Loyal customers who can make three or four visits to us in a year.

This was of course the pre-covid situation and we all hope that it will once again be our daily normality. However, we did not stand still waiting for the storm to pass and we took advantage of these moments of pause to partially rethink our function. Without distorting our characteristics, today we are aiming decisively towards an increasingly pushed research on the quality of the ingredients. First of all, local raw materials but also international ones, all united by great craftsmanship. It is a fundamental step if we want to consolidate our bond with a more international audience.

The task we have entrusted to our chef Ivan Bombieri, who has been with us for several years now, is precisely that of developing a cuisine that does not repeat the classic dishes of Friulian gastronomy but which, however, maintains recognition and the link with the flavors of the territory."

We come now to talk about Enoweb. How were the wine list and cellar previously managed?

La Taverna

"Before Enoweb we already had a management software which, however, was a very limited tool, more for warehouse workers than for sommeliers, without interface for printing the wine list and therefore there were a lot of steps to be done every time.

Instead, what I immediately liked about Enoweb is the fact that it combines full control of the warehouse and inventory with a beautiful, simple, attractive and extremely functional interface for creating the wine list.

And so, given that with the reopening in June, the rules that imposed the sanitization of the wine list every time it was delivered to the customer also came into force, we decided to take this opportunity to introduce Enoweb and switch to digital paper.

I must admit that all the doubts and reluctance we initially had such as: who knows how we will do without the physical wine list, how our customers will react, our staff in the room will be able to manage this new tool ... it all vanished immediately and today most likely I don't even know if once the Covid-19 emergency is over we will introduce the paper wine list."

In the short period of time in which you were able to bring the digital paper into the room, did you notice any particular reluctance or a different attitude of the customers?

"Let's say that our customers can be divided into three types. The first is that of the customer who is a great connoisseur and expert who is perfectly at ease with digital paper. Once he has understood the search mechanism he exploits the tool very well and his possible predisposition to use a digital tool does not have to do with this but rather a good knowledge of the different categories (grape varieties, terroir, winemaking methods, producers, etc.).

The second category is the one that does not use digital paper and it is the same one that did not even use physical paper. He pretends to leaf through the pages and then invariably not having a thorough knowledge ends up seeking the complicity of the maître asking for advice.

In this Enoweb was important because it allowed us to also introduce a consultation path that, in addition to the region and the grape variety, allows a search by price range.

This is because we think it is right that the customer can feel comfortable in ordering and even if he does not know the bottle he ordered at least he has no surprises about the price.

La Taverna

Then there remains a middle band which is the one that tends to order the wines he knows. On this band there was a little more reluctance but we had an easy life with them too because with the excuse that we could not sanitize the paper each time we used it, we let the novelty pass. After all, if one knows even a single piece of information about the wine he wants to order, just type in a text string or a few words of the label and the wine sought if it is present in our cellar appears in a few moments. So these are all easily surmountable things."

Do you also use labels?

"You have no other alternatives. Previously I used a non-detachable label and therefore the management of the drain became a problem, either because a bottle breaks occasionally, or you find the customer taking away the entire carton ... and then it is not at all comfortable to turn with the glass under his arm.

So we had already printed and glued the label before and so I said to myself: '- let's not lose this good habit'. But now with Enoweb everything is more comfortable because first of all we arrive at the table with the clean bottle which is a very refined thing. For the collection of labels, we have a notebook divided into days where the kids glue the label sold by writing the table number next to it, so everything is easier for those who do the billing.

Among other things, with the first of June we have also included a new cash management system (Scloby) which we have discovered to be perfectly compatible and integrated with Enoweb .. This choice has also matured as part of the renewal process that led us to adopt Enoweb and Prenota-web. Having a cash register which in addition to acting as a register also acts as a management software multiplies the potential of both programs.

In my opinion, the integration of Scloby with ENOWEB is perfect. I have rarely seen computer programs developed by different teams work so well together."

How is your wine list composed?

"Obviously, there is an important presence of Friuli especially in the white wines part but not only. This is because it is obvious that we cannot fail to work with the wines of our region.

Overall, the card offers 850 references and about 2500 bottles and if we exclude the Friulian “territorial” share it is basically divided into three parts.

La Taverna

The first is the historical one inherited from the work of Piero Zanini with a big focus linked to the wine boom of the nineties then the supertuscans, the barolo boys and all that world to which today we look with curiosity but which - and I really say it with affection towards those who were protagonists in that period - today we are questioning a bit because in the meantime tastes change, the way of making wine changes and new realities emerge. But it is nice for us to keep this testimony. Every now and then we have fun uncorking some of these bottles together with the guys just to let them know the product, to tell them how wine was made thirty years ago.

We started building the second part of our cellar starting from the 2000s with the introduction of a little bit of maceration and things of this type, without exaggerating and keeping alive the purchase line dedicated to the labels of which we spoke before with various Solaia, Sassicaia, etc. in short, the big classics.

When I arrived in 2016 I began to broaden the horizons a little, shifting attention not only to the new production of natural wines but above all to a careful search for small artisans. However, we did not make any fundamentalist choices. This new orientation was indeed proposed by me but found the approval of all the staff because it is useless to fill the cellar with bottles if then those who have to sell them in the dining room are not convinced of the quality of the choices made.

We also have a nice selection of sparkling wines because they are often requested by a part of the clientele with really interesting Champagne labels. In addition, in recent years we have built a strong bond with Ferrari and therefore as regards the Italian bubble of excellence we basically offer their products also because we believe it is a company that works very well and with great care despite its really important size.

Exactly these days we have decided to concentrate as much as possible on our cellar. In recent months, thanks to lockdowns and various closures, we had slowed down purchases a bit but in recent weeks starting from the end of September we decided that it was the best time to resume buying to also give a slightly different line than before, substantially maintaining the relationship between the various components (Friuli, outside Friuli, etc.) but we also go to take from those small producers that we like best and that often surprise our customers too.

We also risk a little more in the selection of new proposals also because Enoweb gives us a certain security from this point of view."

Can you explain better?

La Taverna

"You see in the past there was less chance to experiment and try new labels. When we made purchases for the cellar, it was customary to never buy cartons below a certain minimum threshold, this is because the updating times of the card were long, it was not always possible to keep the paper and the warehouse in tune and the risk of "failing" the customer was always around the corner. A really unpleasant thing when it happens to you.

Here I must say that with Enoweb this concern is just a bad memory and really if you have the foresight to keep the loading and unloading well I do not say that you can work with only one bottle for reference because maybe then if the bottle tastes like a cork it remains. screwed but very little is missing."

Finally, we also ask you the same question asked to your colleagues interviewed in this column, that is, to give your colleagues a “shopping tip”. Assuming you feel like doing it?

"Would I recommend my colleagues to introduce Enoweb and Prenota-web in their restaurants? The answer is yes first of all because in these times so full of unknowns it is advisable to take advantage of the forced breaks to rethink the management of your restaurant in a more modern key by equipping yourself with tools that help improve the administrative part and facilitate a faster response to continuous changes in the context in which you work. But to get these results you can choose from many different proposals.

On the other hand, what is really difficult to find elsewhere is the availability that E-Group staff puts at your disposal for any problem and the ability to listen, solve problems and also receive suggestions that derive from the customer experience.

In E-Group I found this first of all and then certainly also some very valid products."

20 November 2020

Piergiovanni Mometto [www.mometto.net]




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