Interview with Stefano Venturelli sommelier at the Antica Corte Pallavicina in Polesine Parmense.
Today our journey to discover stories related to the world of wine, hospitality and great catering leads us to meet a king and his court.
The king is Massimo Spigaroli, the chef from Polesime Parmense better known as the "King of culatello". Massimo Spigaroli is the custodian of the sacred art of Emilian butchery, an art that preserves and promotes, together with a few fellow artisans, tenaciously anchored to quality and respect for tradition gathered around the Consortium for the protection of Culatello di Zibello, an association of which Spigaroli he is founder and president.
The great-grandfather of Massimo Spigaroli and his brother Luciano already produced cured meats by working the meats produced on the farm owned by Giuseppe Verdi. From this profound history derives the current production of the Spigaroli house, still made in compliance with the times and procedures established by tradition.
The Court of our king is the Antica Corte Pallavicina. It is a historic building born in the twelfth century as a fortified castle to defend the river port of Polesine Parmense, transformed in the fifteenth century into a noble residence and then - after many vicissitudes - used from the nineteenth century as an agricultural farmhouse. The building that still retains its original fortified imprint is now part of the circuit of the ancient Castles of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, but is above all the seat of a prestigious relais, a starred restaurant, one of the most extraordinary craft production activities of cured meats, hams, cheeses and wines of excellent quality and - finally - one of the most important winery in Italy.
The historic cellars of the Palazzo delle Due Torri (this is the name by which the building is also known), built in 1320 by the Marquises Pallavicini in the area below the castle, were used by them to mature cured meats, cheeses, to refine their wines and to store the products of their countryside. Here, even today, there is a sort of town of Bengodi: in fact, the exceptional cured meats, hams, coppa and culatelli (including the precious Culatello di Zibello Oro), produced with the fine meats of the black pig, a historic native breed of Emilia, rest and refine there; the precious forms of Parmigiano Reggiano aged in four types (plains, hills, mountains and red cows of Emilia) age there; The bottles of wine of its own production are preserved (made by replanting the original vine clones that have always been present in the Lower Parma area) and those from the cellar of the starred restaurant and the adjacent bistro.
Country of Bengodi we have defined what is contained within the solid walls of these cellars, a true temple of Emilian gastronomy. But unlike the town that in Boccaccio's story Maso del Saggio describes to the unwary Calandrino, where "the vines are linked with the rows of sausages", the "mountains are all of grated Parmesan cheese" and where no water flows in the rivers but the "vernaccia of the best" here - at the Antica Corte Pallavicina - is all real and can be visited by everyone.
Reale is also the well-stocked wine cellar of the starred restaurant with 850 labels and 5 thousand bottles from all over the world, some of which are extraordinarily precious. The sommelier Stefano Venturelli has been managing this heritage for just over a year. It was he who, as soon as he began his collaboration with the Spigaroli house, chose to reorganize and make the management of this significant wine heritage more efficient.
“I started about a year ago at the Antica Corte Pallavicina - Venturelli tells us - but as soon as I looked at the state of things I realized that there was a rather confusing situation in the cellar. So we set out to put order, to keep inventory flows under control in real time, to speed up the creation of the wine list. Right from the start Enoweb seemed to us the best solution to obtain these results with the least possible effort ".
How did you know Enoweb?
"Thanks to ALMA, since I work as a teacher at the school, I have had the opportunity in the past to learn how to use it and to use it myself in courses".
Earlier you talked about a rather "confusing" situation in the reality of the cellar, can you explain it better?
"You see that of the Antica Corte Pallavicina is a winery of important dimensions. Beyond the number of bottles, the significant data is that of references. Managing a number of references that are about to reach 900 is anything but simple. Being able to have a wine list always updated in a few seconds whenever you want, being able to manage loading and unloading in a simple way with the optical reading label system while always having the situation under control, means not only having significantly reduced the time that was previously dedicated to these operations but at the same time also enormously improved the degree of efficiency of the management activity. "
How can you describe the way in which Enoweb has changed your job?
“My work has speeded up and simplified. If you only need a few seconds to have the perfectly updated situation of your stock in the cellar with a click, it is clear that all the time previously wasted in these checks can be better used.
Furthermore, the choice that was made to transfer the wine list to the tablet is a further improvement element. Today we can update the wine list several times a day without having to waste time and money for reprinting and having to run the risk of selling to the customer a product that we no longer have in stock.
Among other things, our historic wine list was a very precious object with a wooden cover and interiors in fine paper, but it was so "important" as an object so much it was not very useful as a service because we struggled a lot to update it. days but not even from week to week.
In general, how did your customers experience the moment of transition from paper to digital wine list?
“We thought we were having much greater difficulties. In fact, at the beginning we did not feel like offering only the tablet and we both proposed to the customer with the warning obviously that the paper book could not be updated. However, almost immediately we realized that the customer prefers in any case to be sure to consult an updated catalog. Today we bring the tablet directly to the table without asking the customer if he prefers the traditional form. Only 1% of our customers still ask us for the paper wine list, all the others not only use the tablet but are often pleasantly surprised by the ease of research and the wealth of data available ".
As far as the internal organization is concerned, did the introduction of Enoweb involve any changes?
“Yes for the better because when we have a cellar that is divided into many sectors, each of which is assigned a series of codes applied on the bottles, it becomes very easy to find the bottle when needed.
Instead, imagine what can happen when you have to find a bottle in a cellar with 850 references and 5 thousand bottles. Maybe the customer orders a very particular and rarely requested Sardinian Vermentino or one of the 80 different varieties of Lambrusco that we keep in the cellar. It is not always easy to find a bottle, also because there are several people who put their hand to it during the service. Imagine again that the bottle ordered by the customer through the traditional wine list has run out and due to the overlapping of commitments in the room this has not been promptly reported. And imagine again that all this takes place in full service, with the room full and customers waiting. Here in these situations Enoweb is essential for everything to go smoothly: the wine is immediately recovered and brought to the table and you don’t run into the unpleasant situation of having to go back to the table maybe after more than half an hour to announce that that bottle is no longer available ".
Must the work involved in compiling 850 datasheets so full of information have been quite complicated?
“No not at all. In this I was greatly helped by the E-Group technicians. I limited myself to transmitting the list of references and I found myself with all the forms already filled in with a much broader and more complete detail of data than I could have done for the very short time available. I would say that with E-Group we managed to do an excellent teamwork, very well coordinated.
For me it was essential at the beginning to be able to have an updated inventory, to have a true photograph of the physical situation of the cellar available, but after having done this initial work, all the subsequent steps from my point of view were very simple and relatively challenging. In this way I was able to concentrate on the peculiarities of our cellar and on the request for changes and updates to the program that would meet my specific needs. And to my great surprise, on the other hand, I found a great willingness to make these improvements, so much so that even today we can define this as a work in progress.
You see it is the very nature of matter which is very complex. The management of a winery involves many variables, also in relation to how work is organized in the restaurant. Furthermore, we are also wine producers and we use the program in the dual role of restaurateurs and winemakers, finding it extraordinarily efficient in both uses.
The most surprising thing about our relationship with E-group is the fact that the introduction of Enoweb helped us to improve and rationalize the organization of the various operational processes but at the same time the program was able to adapt to the specificities of our structure enhancing them.
In all this, what was the role of the Spigaroli brothers?
"They were pleasantly surprised and satisfied even if initially there was some perplexity on their part, especially for the choice of introducing the tablet in the room. But you know sometimes it is also necessary to force things a bit because we have to be able to propose new things and differentiate ourselves from others, to make our customers understand that the restaurant is evolving in the organizational aspects. It keeps up with the times. What matters for us and for our customers is the continuity in the quality of our legendary cured meats, but from that point of view I assure you that nothing has changed and nothing will change. The Spigaroli brothers are very attached to the traditions and artisan knowledge transmitted by the experience of the past, but they are also very careful to introduce all those innovations that, while respecting tradition, can improve the quality of the product and the organizational aspects.
In short, doors open to everything that can help us in facilitating work in the room, administrative management, that of the warehouse and communication with customers but absolute respect for the practices and steps that lead to the production of our cured meats, our cheese, our wine.
You also use Enoweb in ALMA what can you tell us about it?
"It is a completely different context. In this case, there is no final customer to satisfy, but I must say that even here the program helps me a lot. I can also consult the status of the cellar at any time from home and be aware of the availability in stock. In this way I can easily prepare my lessons, choose the bottles to use in the classroom in the following days, report any shortcomings in the warehouse and so on.
On the other hand, if Enoweb facilitates my work, I don't see why it shouldn't make the customer experience of our restaurant more complete and satisfying. As a next step, we intend to make our wine list freely available on the internet to make it available to our customers. This way when they book they can’t only choose the menu but also the wine to match. Maybe they have an event, they celebrate a birthday, they celebrate an event and then they decide to open an important bottle and then they can choose it first from the comfort of their home without running the risk of finding the cellar unguarded. So when they arrive they find their wine at the right temperature and - if it is a particularly important red - we can provide for the decantation before their arrival ".
“In conclusion, based on my personal experience, I want to say that Enoweb is an ideal software not only for catering wineries, but also for schools, wine bars, production cellars. In all the realities that have to do with wine once it has been bottled Enoweb can really help us to have an edge. "
Piergiovanni Mometto [www.mometto.net]