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Caravaggio Restaurant Highlight
Interview With Co-Owner, Cosimo Bruno
KINDLY INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND CARAVAGGIO RESTAURANT.
“I am Cosimo Bruno and we brought our family tradition of wine and food to the US over 30 years ago when we opened our first restaurant in New York City. We opened Caravaggio, our third restaurant addition, in 2009 in Manhattan’s Upper Eastside, nestled among the world’s most beautiful shops, museums, and stylish people. The restaurant offers a modern take on Italian classics, with acute attention to detail and pristine plating. The dining room boasts artwork from some of the most famous artists in the world, producing an elegant environment for guests to dress up and come to enjoy the utmost sophistication. I come from a family rich in culinary professionals and tradition, mostly influenced by my growing up in Salerno, Italy – a town on the Amalfi Coast just south of Naples. I oversee the day-to-day operations at Caravaggio and run the restaurant as Co-Owner along with my two brothers.“
WHAT ARE YOUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES AS A CHEF? ARE THERE CERTAIN BELIEFS YOU HAVE ABOUT THE ART OF FOOD?
“We believe in cooking only the freshest food in order to serve the absolute best to our customers. We design our menu to coincide with the four seasons, using organic meats and produce, and the freshest fish available. As the availability of items change with the seasons, so do our menus. We focus on beautiful presentations and keep dishes as simple as possible. We have several fresh markets we visit multiple times every week to purchase the best ingredients – fish market, meat market, farmers market, etc. Other products we have flown in straight from Italy. It’s a daily practice to be aware of what’s fresh and new so that we can offer only superior ingredients to our clientele on a daily basis.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DISH ON THE MENU?
“Branzino Al Sale. It has an amazing flavor, fantastico! It’s a Mediterranean Sea Bass, which is encrusted in sea salt and served with seasonal fresh steamed vegetables. The purity of the fish is essential with the olive oil we use, made on our family’s farm in Italy.”
WHO ARE THE MOST MEMORABLE CLIENTS AT YOUR RESTAURANT?
“At Caravaggio we are lucky to have countless celebrities, actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, business executives, and VIP’s who are friends of the restaurant and regular diners. We pride ourselves in offering a safe, comfortable place for our guests to unwind and relax while enjoying some of the best food and wine in New York City. If you read what’s in the media, I’m sure you will enjoy learning about some of our notable clientele!“
WHAT WILL YOU BE PREPARING FOR THANKSGIVING?
“We’re serving a special menu for Thanksgiving Day. It will feature the holiday’s traditional favorites, as well as seasonal specials including homemade risotto with pumpkin and wild mushrooms, butternut squash soup, homemade Burrata, and Italian cotechino sausage served with braised Castelluccio lentils. We are also offering a special White Truffles menu.”
I UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE AN EXTENSIVE LIST. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE KENZO WINE?
“Mr. Toru from Kenzo Estate first came in to Caravaggio two years ago. I tasted each wine and loved them all - the ai was an immediate favorite. It’s different, elegant and sophisticated - it has a smoothness. Most cabs are spicy and heavy; this has slightly less alcohol percentage, yet maintained its flavor—it’s very much the same as a European style cab. You can have more than a glass or two! Customers love this wine, as do I. The professionals that developed all Kenzo Estate wines have incredible skills and the wine they created is simply beautiful. “
Restaurant Highlight - The Wine Train
Interview With Executive Chef, Kelly Macdonald
WHAT BRINGS YOU TO THE WINE AND FOOD INDUSTRY & WHAT’S YOUR BACKGROUND?
“What brings me to Napa Valley, one of the world’s Meccas for wine, is all of the great food that has arisen here. Where there’s great wine, there are great chefs. I’m from California myself. My grandmother was Portuguese and we fished and picked our own mushrooms. I grew up getting good food from its source and bringing it to the table. I came to Napa 23 years ago with my young family and beautiful wife. I worked for Cindy Paulsen of Mustard’s Grill and for Freemark Abbey Restaurant. I have an education in food and a love for food. It’s a lifestyle being in the food and wine industry. All the food I make for the Wine Train is wine related. Some dishes have wine in them. All our menu items have a suggested wine to go with them. This particular event for Kenzo is very special. We do several special events like this every year featuring celebrity winemakers.”
ARE THE PEOPLE ANY DIFFERENT? WHAT’S THE SOCIAL ATMOSPHERE LIKE?
“The Wine Train is a more intimate experience and people have the expectation that they will have a really good time. They are also excited because of the energy of the train. They can watch the kitchen in action and see us serving each dish. They expect more from us than they would from any other restaurant.
The Train is special in itself. Being on board is like walking through history. Our guests get to explore a mystery when they walk through the Pullman train cars dated from 1915 through 1952. The Vista Dome car is a Super Dome, and there are only 18 in existence in the world. People wonder what it was like back when the train cars were in operation. This is the way it would have been.”
WHAT ARE YOUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES AS A CHEF? ARE THERE CERTAIN BELIEFS YOU HAVE ABOUT THE ART OF FOOD?
First of all, about wine, I believe wine is the food until wine is paired with an actual entree. Then it becomes wine. I don’t taste it like a winemaker or like a chemist, instead I taste it like it is food. So, wine is food until served with food. The asatsuyu, Sauvignon Blanc, had a bit of grapefruit taste to me, it was a little complicated, it was deep, it had notes of oil from the grapefruit skin. I had it on an empty stomach because what you have in your stomach can really change what’s on the palette once you swallow it.
If a wine is complex or busy, meaning lots of flavors, aromas, but elegant and balanced, I then go for simple and balanced dishes. With the rindo red, I can go with different flavors because it has simple elegant traits.
WHY DO YOU DECIDE ON WINE BEFORE THE DISH?
To be true to what’s in the bottle. You can adjust the food, but the wine, the art, is already there. The food artist needs to build around that.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT NAPA WINE? KENZO ESTATE WINE?
“Obviously, Kenzo Estate wines are very smooth. This was one of my first experiences with Kenzo. I tasted these wines at the end of the day. The Sauvignon Blanc was one of my favorites, but it wasn’t too busy. I felt the nose matched the taste, the aroma matched it. With the cabs, I’m familiar with Heidi Barrett, and I’ve done two winemaker events with her. I can definitely tell she’s the winemaker. It’s very refined. Both the ai and murasaki were unique. They’re very refined, very sexy wines. That’s from a chef’s view. My place is to appreciate what’s in the bottle and pair something with it. I was very excited actually to try them. We had2010 rindo, murasaki, ai and the asatsuyu (2012).”
Restaurant Highlight - The Palm, L.A.
Interview With Wine Director, Peter Meemalayath
Mr. Peter Meemalayath has been with The Palm, Los Angeles since its opening in 2002, and coincidentally has been a fan of Kenzo’s media business in video-gaming. He says his admiration with Kenzo started as a boy playing Street Fighter.
WHAT BRINGS YOU TO THE WINE AND FOOD INDUSTRY OF LOS ANGELES?
“There are two sommelier programs I graduated from, the most notable being ISG, International Sommelier Guild. I became the wine director four years ago when the owner requested I take the position when our beloved General Manager went to the Nashville branch. He said all the regulars knew me, and it was time to step up. I have a very friendly attitude, and there is a uniqueness about my guest service. So, I stepped up so to speak. ”
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN WINE TO CLIENTS?
“I share my thoughts when speaking to them about the wine paired with meals. The wine choice is theirs, not mine. People love to hear about food and wine. My goal is to change the dining experience into a memorable moment in their life. It’s a memory first and dining second.”
WHAT MAKES THE PALM UNIQUE?
“People have been coming here for 87 years. We have style. People come back for the experience. They can get great food a lot of places, but they come here because of our Palm hospitality.
WHO HAVE YOU SERVED FROM THE FILM INDUSTRY?
"I’ve met so many celebrities and entrepreneurs, and I’ve served all of them: Harrison Ford, Arnold Swarzenegger, Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone. Anytime they go to the Staples Center games, they stop in for a visit. Tom Hanks, John Elway, one of the greatest quarterbacks was here a couple of nights ago.”
HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT KENZO ESTATE WINES?
“I learned over the years that Kenzo is very precise, in a way, he is a perfectionist. He’s a non-stop worker filled with passion. I heard about him through the media; I was reading wine magazine. It said Kenzo was planning the perfect team involving David Abreu as vineyard manager, winemaker Heidi Barrett, and Thomas Keller curated the food in the tasting room. Unlike Harlan or Screaming Eagle or other great California wines, Kenzo has more depth; Kenzo wine is a memory trigger for me. Every time I sip, it reminds me of my youth and Capcom games. Good memories and good times, you know?”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE rindo AND ai ?
“It’s a beautiful, flowery and a very romantic wine for me. If you listen to classical music, it’s like a perfect symphony. Every part of the wine plays well together. rindo reflects an excellent harmony wine. The tannin is there, the acidity is also there, but it’s not too acidic. The fruit is a perfect balance with just the right amount of berry and spice.
ai—it’s completely and utterly different. ai is a Rocky Balboa or Mohammed Ali of Napa Cab. ai is a champion, a true king of California cabernet. It’s a classic and the best of Napa cabs. Napa is unique and different from the rest of the world. Like Mohammed Ali said, if you are made of greatness, you have the right to tell the world how great you are. I have the right to tell the world about the wine.”
HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON OUR WINES?
“This is what I do; I taste and drink wines all the time. I’d rather buy what fits The Palm cuisine. The first time I tried rindo 2007, I thought, “Wow! This is really good wine. I need to let people know. I use the energy I have to share what’s good. Anytime people want to go to Napa, I recommend Kenzo’s winery.
As a sommelier, you have to have discipline; it’s key. You have to be a perfectionist and disciplined, the same as Kenzo. The fact is, it’s a lot of work. You have to stay healthy. If you’re sick, your olfactory sinus cannot pick up smells in the nose and it affects the palate.
I taste all the time. I tasted 20-30 wines yesterday. A couple of days ago, I tasted 100. I read about wine every day. You never stop learning. New ones show up, the weather changes, picking times change. As I taste, I pick up the differences between an ’09 and ’10 and then I describe it to the guests. If you want to be in the know, you have to work to stay on top.”
The Palm Website
Restaurant Highlight - Hakkasan