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What Makes a Great Italian Wine Bar?

Wine bars are ubiquitous these days. There are natural wine bars, French wine bars and Champagne bars— the list can go on. But what separates the good ones from the great ones? Is it the wine program, the food or the ambiance? Or is it the ability to foster a sense of community or belonging?

Danielle Callegari and Jeff Porter, Wine Enthusiast’s Italian wine reviewers and writers at large, were on a mission to find out. They sought out insights from Camilla Bellini, who owns and operates a wine bar in the heart of Florence named Enoteca Bellini.

You May Also Like: The 10 Best Wine Bars in New York City

In this episode, Bellini discusses the impact her parents had on her business; her experience as a woman in the wine industry; Italian hospitality; the relationship between Italy and Champagne; how she created her wine program; and why she feels it’s important for everyone to feel welcome in her space.

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Episode Transcript

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.

SPEAKERS 

Jacy Topps, Jeff Porter, Camilla Bellini, Danielle Callegari 

Jacy Topps  00:09 

Hello, and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast podcast. You’re serving of drinks culture, and the people who drive it. I’m Jacy Topps. This week, we are highlighting wine bars. What is a wine bar, anyway? And what separates the good ones from the great ones? Is it the wine program, the food, the ambiance? Or is it the ability to foster a sense of community or belonging, Danielle Callegari and Jeff Porter, Wine Enthusiast, Italian wine reviewers and writers at large wanted to highlight one of their favorite Tuscan wine bars. So, they sat down with Camilla Bellini, who owns and operates a wine bar in the heart of Florence named Enoteca Bellini. So, listen on as Camilla discusses the impact her parents had on her business, her experience as a woman in the wine industry, the relationship between Italy and Champagne, how she created her wine program, and why she feels it’s important for everyone to feel welcomed in her space. 

Jacy Topps  01:16 

Every glass of wine tells a story. These stories reveal a hidden histories, flavors and passions, and sometimes they unravel our darkest desires. In Wine Enthusiast newest podcast Vinfamous journalists Ashley Smith dissects the underbelly of the wine world. We hear from the people who know what it means when the products of love and care become the source of greed, arson, and even murder. Each episode takes listeners into the mysterious and historic world of winemaking and the crimes that have since become Vinfamous. This podcast pairs well with wine lovers, history nerds and crime junkies alike. So grab a glass of your favorite wine and follow the podcast to join us as we delve into the twists and turns behind the all time most shocking wine crimes. Follow Vinfamous on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen and be sure to follow the show, so you never miss a scandal. New episodes drop every other Wednesday. 

Jeff Porter  02:26 

Howdy everybody. My name is Jeff Porter and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast Podcast. I’m a writer at large for Wine Enthusiast covering northern Italy. And I’m here with my colleague Danielle Callegari.  

Danielle Callegari  02:37 

Hi. I am also a writer at large at Wine Enthusiast covering Italy only I do Tuscany and the south of Italy while Jeff takes over the North. King in the North as he is. We are so excited today to be talking with Camila Bellini, who owns one of our favorite wine bars in Florence, and who is going to talk to us a little bit about what it’s like owning operating and simply managing the day-to-day level, a place that’s trying to bring some of the best Italian wines to the casual and hopefully engaged drinker in the beautiful medieval city that is Firenze. Camila, thank you so much for joining us. Maybe we can begin by just having you tell everyone a little bit about yourself very simply. And then we’ll talk wine together. Sure. 

Camilla Bellini  03:32 

So yeah, I was born and raised in Florence. My mom is from the U.S and my dad is from Florence. I grew up in the city center. And my mom is the one that got into the wine business. She had a passion for wine. She decided to do a sommelier course when I was probably a kid. Still, I know everybody assumes that it’s my dad because he’s Italian, but it’s actually my American mom, they got into wine. And then she started in the wine business. And then she was contagious, I guess cause my brother is now an ethnologist. And I own a wine bar with my father in the center of Florence. So yeah, it was a bit of an impact on us, obviously. 

Jeff Porter  04:09 

Where’s your mom from the United States?  

Camilla Bellini  04:13 

She’s from San Francisco.  

Jeff Porter  04:15 

Growing up. Did you split time? Did you go visit your grandparents in the Bay Area?  

Camilla Bellini  04:20 

Unfortunately, no. I mean, we had wonderful times visiting my grandparents but then moved to New Jersey and then Pennsylvania. So those are the two areas that I’ve visited the most and some Long Island as well, because my uncle who lives there, and  

Jeff Porter  04:35 

You mean fortunately got to go to New Jersey.  

Camilla Bellini  04:37 

Yeah I mean, I wish that I had seen a little bit more where my mom grew up in the bay area of San Francisco. I’ve always been curious, but they had all moved. So, I just didn’t happen to go in that area. But yeah, and she actually came to Italy to study art in university. She wasn’t really into wine. I think she’s always liked it, but it wasn’t anything that she thought that she could be doing. And then my dad, who’s an agronomist, and he’s an expert in olive oil. So, I mean, I grew up, I guess, very spoiled with very good high-quality food in Italy, so I feel like they sort of that’s yeah, that’s my bag background, basically,  

Jeff Porter  05:20 

I feel like that’s, that’s my dream to have an olive oil, dad and a mom wine and like, that’s like, truly the quintessential, like, Italian combination that, you know, I think a lot of us in the states have this idealistic notion. I was like, oh, that’s the Bellavita. And like, you’re the epitome. You’re the birth child of two great passions.  

Camilla Bellini  05:41 

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I consider myself very lucky. I mean, I am very picky, though. When I go places, but you know, I mean, but it’s good. It’s good to know where things come from, and the quality of them, and why do they exist and how you use them. And so, I grew up a lot with that, like olive oil, you don’t cook everything in it, you know, you use it raw, and just there’s a bunch of things that are definitely part of my lifestyle that I could never change.  

Jeff Porter  06:09 

Growing up in Florence, and being able to have the wine culture around you, and being able to drink sooner than, you know, drinking in the states, what was your first memory of the first wine bar you waled into Florence? 

Camilla Bellini  09:03 

Um, so my dad, he had this dream of having a wine bar actually was his dream, not mine so much. And he thought, why don’t we do this together, we can do a project together. And you can run the place because you already have experience running, you know, restaurants and bars. And so, we decided to do this. And it’s interesting, because I mean, I’ve always was surrounded by I mean, I have to say, my mom is the person that probably gave me the biggest impact apart from my dad, opening up the space. I mean, the idea that my mom is the one that I am growing up, she had a library that instead of books, it was full of wine bottles, because she traveled and for her job, she had to taste a lot of she needed samples. And so, she always had samples from all over Italy, she represented Italian wines, trying to sell them outside of Italy. So, we had wines from the very north to the very south. And that’s sort of how I found out that there was more to it. I mean, it wasn’t just Tuscany. It wasn’t just Chianti classico. But there was Etna, which I mean, now it’s very popular, but until you know, I mean, it wasn’t that. I mean, even I remember it opened up in Florence about eight years ago, having by the glass in that tunnel was still something special now not so much. But almost 10 years ago there was still something that you it wasn’t that common in Tuscany. I think people expect to come here and always only have Tuscan wine. But that is something that in my family we just never understood completely. We loved Tuscan wine. But there’s so much I mean, just the geography of Italy. It’s long. And so, we have all these different types of, you know, climates and terroirs and everything. And so, I mean, we can’t not think about that part, too, you know. So yeah, I mean, I think it’s the combination of all these things together. 

Jeff Porter  11:51 

Do you go back? Sorry.  

Danielle Callegari  11:53 

Yeah, absolutely. No, no, no worries.  

Jeff Porter  11:56 

I think to go back a little further, you’d mentioned you’d worked prior to opening up. And for those that didn’t hear this, your wine bar is called Enoteca Bellini. And before you opened Enoteca Bellini What other places did you work in and what styles of service were they?  

Camilla Bellini  12:12 

I mean, I worked from a pizzeria to like even a just I guess they call them bars here. I mean, they’re open from the morning until late at night. So you have from the cappuccino and the coffees in the morning until the lunch service and then the aperitivo and then after dinner drinks. I mean, I worked in so many different places. I’ve worked in pubs. I’ve learned a lot about beer actually, before learning about wine because I think, because that’s the funny thing in Italy, a lot of young people are more attracted to, you know, cocktails and beer. That is when I grew up. My friends, everybody. That is what we drink. That’s what we cared about wine, not so much. Wine is something that is changing. Now, I think that a lot of young people are going into wine, but it’s new. I mean, and you would assume that it’s that Italians are always drinking wine all the time, but not really. It depends. It really depends on how you grew up and where you grew up. And it just, I think that that was the I was very curious about other things in life. But maybe that’s even because I was so surrounded by it that I wanted to explore different things.  

Jeff Porter  13:24 

I think you nailed it on the head is when you’re, you know, if you’re a native of New York, when you walk by the Empire State Building, it’s, it’s always been there, right? The same as you walk into the Palazzo Vecchio, you’re like, whatever and I go there, I’m gonna call it what is this place? Even in New York either I see the Empire State Building and so like holy cow, like, and for me as a person from a non-wine culture, wine was just like this big things like whiskey and beer was like de rigueur and so I can totally see that that that flip in Italy like all the kids, like our parents drink this stuff. Let’s try something different. Yes, but could you go maybe a little deeper into that that change because I I’ve been seen it, you know, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve been surrounded and focused on Italian wine for 20 years now and seeing this evolutionary shift, which I find really exciting because I think on your side and the you know, enoteca space and the wine bar space, there’s an energy focusing on these producers, but like our mutual friends how we met Madalena and Matteo of Juliana to SOPA and Chianti classico, both young vigorous people that are energizing the space in a different way can you talk about that kind of you know, culmination that of energy coming together and what it looks like today in Italy,  

Camilla Bellini  14:38 

So, you mean just like the drinking aspect? 

Jeff Porter  14:41 

The drinking, but also the philosophical like people going into agriculture people going into the hospitality because they’re both spaces that are hard. It’s not like tech, right? Yes. You know, it’s the incomes not as high. The lifestyle is different.  

Camilla Bellini  14:57 

No, I just think it’s interesting because you know, I mean, there is still, it’s very strong individually, the fact that you sort of ended up doing what your parents do. I mean, that is still something that happens a lot. So agriculture, I think there’s a lot of that there. But then again, when my brother started studying enology, and university at agraja, gravity in Frience, he, I mean, that opened up a new world to me. And I found out all these people who came from families who didn’t really care about wine, just had this passion, and we’re going for it. And I do think it’s because wine has changed a little bit in the past, in the recent years, in the sense, it’s a lot more accessible to young people. I mean to me before, when I was when I was little, it just seemed like such a faraway world such you had to have money, you know, it was sort of an elite type of world. And now, it just, it’s a lot more, it’s going back to sort of the roots, because it was so normal to have wine on your table lunch and dinner. You know, it didn’t matter what was going on, that was just normal. And it was very normal. I grew up with my grandfather putting water in his wine every single day like he did, I don’t think you’ve ever really had a glass of wine without water. And it was just something common to do. So, I don’t know, it’s very interesting. I wonder if said, If Yeah, I think it’s that just the thing that is changing about wine, and it’s more accessible. And so people are not so intimidated by it, I guess. 

Camilla Bellini  16:25 

But the interesting thing is, like, for me cocktails, or something, it was it was it’s always been sort of tied to the American Bar cocktails, and Italians went crazy for it. And they’re really good at making them. I mean, they’re really good at the service of them. And some of the best, you know, cocktail bars in the world are in Italy. And so, it’s they, they really went for that. And I think that brought along a lot of young people. And now it’s going back to sort of wine as well. But maybe that’s because of the natural wine movement. I think that is sort of making it more interesting and more accessible to young people. Because I think it’s not as stuffy maybe sometimes, I don’t know.  

Danielle Callegari  17:08 

Yeah. Well, speaking of that, so you know, thinking about you having your own place, you get to build the program. How did you make your selections? What are you offering to people? How do you feel that? You know, I think in a best-case scenario, and I see that and you’re in Enoteca Bellini, you have, there’s a narrative behind like, I can’t understand what you’re trying to say, by reading your shelves, right? You’ve you talked about your mother having a library online and this literal sense, right? So, I take a look, when I when I look at someone’s list, or I look at somebody’s shop, and I see what they have there, I think of it as reading. It’s also because that’s how I have an academic formation. So, it’s my way of conceiving things. And I look at it and I see a story. And I see, you know, what you have chosen saying to your audience, or your clients or guests, in this case, what you think about Italian wine right now. So how did you come up with that story? Your narrative? What’s informing it? And maybe also, if I can add an addendum immediately? What do you see changing right now?  

Camilla Bellini  18:13 

Um, so yeah, I mean, I think the main philosophy we’ve always had, and this is something that maybe still comes from my family. Then, the wine that we’ve always had, has to be good quality, clean and elegant, that is sort of the base, if it’s a natural wine, if it’s a more conventional wine, traditional wine, whatever it that that’s always comes into second place. I think it’s interesting to be able to taste a little bit of everything. And there’s a reason why do you know, traditional wines are like that. And conventional wines are like that, and natural wines that like that. I mean, I think she knows wine, you have to know a little bit about every old type of wine. I think that’s very important, especially at the beginning, when you’re learning. And I feel like I’m always learning. I mean, this world is huge, it’s enormous. And more countries and more places are adding to it. There’s a new world, and that is so interesting, as well. So, I’ve had wines from New Zealand, from Australia, comparing you know, Sauvignons from, from New Zealand, and from Italy and from France all together, and it’s just, it’s been so much fun. And it’s nice to have a place that you can do that and have blind tastings with people and create that space. Because I think those aspects are very interesting. And you get, and I mean, I think I’ve learned more about geography, drinking wine, and anything else in my life, you know, definitely more than school. And it’s so interesting that we have access to that in this world right now where we can buy almost everything from the other side of the world. So yeah, we’ve always tried to have that that is something I think it’s really important for us, but yeah, it always comes in seconds. it was made. I mean, it’s always important to understand the perception in the mouth and the nose and what you’re drinking because we’ve always is what try to give priority to the conversation and to the people having fun and not so much on the wine. If the wine is good, you’re not going to be talking about it that much, you’re going to be enjoying your time having a good time with your friends. That’s sort of how I’ve sort of grown to like, understand how it interacts with myself personally. If there’s something weird with the wine, then you start talking about it, and it’s, you’re not having a conversation, you’re not celebrating, you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing with other people. And so then you focus on that. So I always find that very interesting. And I love the fact that I’ve had dinners with friends or have clients at the end of, you know, having great conversations. And at the end of the bottle, like, oh, by the way, this was amazing. That is such a good sign. You know, and the bottle is finished, obviously. But you know, and that’s sort of how we’ve always decided to choose wine especially things that we personally drink, and we love. And it’s hard because sometimes you even have to get out of your comfort zone. I have to say that I’ve had issues that that because I like high acidity white’s mineral and not everybody loves those. So it’s nice to challenge yourself and try new things. And because if it’s a business you have to you can’t just you know, have your it’s only the things right. Yeah, but it’s an interesting challenge. I like it’s interesting, I would have never thought that I will have like certain wines that I always thought maybe in my head no, no, no, no. So I love that part as well. So I don’t know, I guess last talking because I’m Italian and I just started growing 

Danielle Callegari  21:32 

All we do is drink, you know, tannic reds all day. And so we’re always you know, it’d be great trying to push people into the total opposite. No, we came for Italian wine. Yeah. 

Jeff Porter  21:53 

Two questions because I have a wine question but a hold it for a little bit longer. But I want to go back a little further. Just to get a timeline. When did you open Bellini  

Camilla Bellini  22:03 

In 2015  

Jeff Porter  22:05 

2015 Okay, so you and Danielle alluded to this, and you know, you know I feel so guilty because I started coming to Florence when I became the ambassador of Chianti Classico. I started doing a lot of work with them in 2016, first time I’d ever been to Florence, I was one of those assholes was like, I don’t need to go to Florence it’s covered with tourists. F this place and then I go for the first time was like holy shit that’s place the world I see why it’s strewn with tourists because it’s such a beautiful city. So I apologize for not having come sooner. Being a young woman in a in a world that is seemingly very machismo the innate identity of like, in the I guess the character of Italian existence. This is very male dominated patriarchal society. What was the beginning like because in 2000 you were you were an early adopter, even though there’s been lots of bars in Florence, since you know time memoria. The moment I walked in your place, there’s an energy there’s a special quality to it. I’ve been to a lot of other wine bars in in, in Italy itself. And I would put yours for me in the top five of all white bars.  

Camilla Bellini  23:20 

Thank you very much! 

Jeff Porter  23:20 

That’ not just because we’re talking to you. Yeah. Thank you, though. I appreciate it.  

Danielle Callegari  23:24 

I would say the reason why we’re talking to you is because of that so.  

Camilla Bellini  23:29 

Thank you very much. 

Jeff Porter  23:31 

My life I swear to God, whoever’s listening, you have to go to Enoteca Bellini. I walked through the threshold of that door, and I was like, I’m home. I’m where I need to be in this moment. And, and, yeah, like talk about the beginning, because I can only imagine how hard it is having worked in hospitality for so long. That being young, being female, being in an old city that’s expensive, like the real I can’t even imagine how to how to work real estate and Florence.  

Camilla Bellini  24:02 

Oh, yeah. I mean, yeah, no, yeah, it’s okay. So, nothing is easy. I really do believe though, wherever you do something, there’s going to be something so for. It’s good to know the language in the sense not just Italian, but the Florentine language. How to interact with Florentines. I’m in a street in the center of Florence that is still very Florentine. And it’s still a little gem, because a lot of parts of Florence, you know, are not how they used to be. And they’ve changed a lot and, you know, bit more centered around tourism. And I have to say that Via Della Spada is still one of those streets where there are people that have had their shops since you know, or 30 years, or maybe it was their parents and their grandparents. And so I’m very lucky in that sense. But you do need to know how to, you know how to move and not. You’re new so, and everybody knows that you’re new and it’s interesting. You have you feel like a guest. I mean, I grew up here I mean, but you still feel like a guest. And once you win them over though, it’s great, and I have a lot of support from the street. So that’s a very, that’s always made it a lot easier, I have to say at the beginning, it was just me and my dad and I was running the bar basically by myself. And that was so hard. 

Camilla Bellini  25:16 

I think that I’m happy that I was by myself, because I didn’t, if I had somebody else talking to me, or I would have questioned so many things, and I just, you know, fake it till you make it, you just keep going on. And you know, you’ll learn quickly when you’re, you know, by yourself. And then slowly, it started to form into something that we really loved and liked. And I’ve always tried so hard to have local clients, local clients are not Florentine only anymore, just because so many people have been living here for such a long time. I mean, my mom came here in the early 80s. And she never really went back.  

Camilla Bellini  25:53 

And she’s not the only one, it’s full of people that come from all over the world, a lot of Americans a lot of English, you know, who have lived it for a long time they work here, and just the local people who live in the area or before after work before going home, they need a place to like stop by and you still can’t find that place where like my mom was jokes, and she says it’s like, Cheers, your places, Cheers. I mean, you know, there’s always people that you know, you’re gonna, they’re gonna be there. And even though you don’t really know, what do they do, because that’s something very Italian that I still hope never goes away. And Italy, it’s so common to have a relationship with somebody that you meet every day at your local wine bar, for example, and never know what they actually do for a living, and just talk about anything else. And I love that. I mean, I feel like my American side, you don’t find it that much. You always ask what do you do? That’s the first question. In Italy. I’ve seen people like literally talk to them each other for five years and have no clue what they do as a job. And one of them can be a lawyer. And the other one can be whatever, you know, like, like souls, fruit and vegetables, or whatever. And I love that. And so that’s sort of the, the atmosphere that I really wanted to create and fluent in this wine bar in Florence. And then there’s a tourist aspect, it’s very important, because as I was saying before, I mean, a lot of people now that come from out of Italy have a such a great passion of mine. And they know more sometimes than a lot of my locals that come all the time. And people have to understand that even Italians have to understand it. It doesn’t necessarily mean if you’re telling him that you get wine, or you like wine. And for a long time in Florence, it was normal to serve crappy wine to tourist or you know, corked wine, because you’re like, oh, they’re tourists, they have no idea. But I mean, be careful to do that. I’ve had a lot of people come into my wine bar and actually teach me a few things, you know, and they came from all over the place all over the world. Because I think it’s the passion that one, it’s, you know, you get it, then there’s no way out and you go into it so much, you go into it so deep. So yeah, I mean, that’s sort of the, these aspects, aspects of having the locals and the tourists and everything like that, it just made it so much easier. And it is a macho world. But I have to say, the people that were very important to me growing up, were all women in this world. It’s not like they weren’t there. So, I do have great examples, I have to say, and of course, there’s been a few moments where, you know, a few idiots have said a few terrible comments or whatever. But it just made me want to do it more. I mean, it didn’t really stop me. So, I mean, it is true. But in Italy, in the restaurant business, I mean, some women, they run it all, I mean, maybe there are more behind the scenes. That’s true. I have to admit to that. And there’s always a guy who does a lot less who’s the face maybe but apart from that, yeah, that happens a lot. No, but I have to say that I really did have great examples in the food part and the wine part because I love the food part as well. It’s not just about wine, my wine bar, it’s something that I really think it’s important Italian culture teaches you to always have food with alcohol, whatever alcohol you’re having. And I love that and so that is something that I really take care of that my wine bar to have always food with wine super important.  

Jeff Porter  29:21 

So as an experiencer of your food Oh my god. Like again, that was one of those other things like when I walked in there. And you brought the crostini and they just kept coming. We’re like, I was like, we don’t need to go to dinner. We still went to dinner. But I just was like can we just stay? Yeah, I mean, I think the like to set the stage in and Danielle, like, jump in with your memories, but like you’re walking down this like in you said it, this very classic Florentine alley, your caddy corner from the church Maria del Fiore the bars down the street. Yes. And you’re after a year. Yeah. So, you ruled the block? Yeah. Well, yeah.  

Camilla Bellini  30:18 

But I think it is, I mean, the people though. Yeah. So yeah, that I used to hang out on when I was a lot younger and a pub. And so, I mean, no, that’s the great thing about Florence you sort of all know each other. But yeah, it wasn’t like this before they used to everybody used to fight about everything. Now people are getting the young people are more into you know, helping each other out and not fighting so much. So I love that and that’s a good thing about that square. We all get along.  

Danielle Callegari  30:45 

So yeah, it definitely the vibe is rising tide raises all ships, like everybody brings it all together. And that is I mean, speaking of what a great one two punch or an evening to hang out. I do some bubbles and wine and Enoteca Bellini and then cross over to cocktails. But that’s a good night and you can you don’t even have to move.  

Camilla Bellini  31:12 

Yeah, absolutely. Yes. 

31:14 

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Jeff Porter  32:17 

You alluded to it just now, Danielle but like my fascination with Italy and Champagne. All the great restaurants all the great wine bars of Italy have awesome Champagne lists that even in France, but to shame what the French think they can do. You know, the very first wine I had at your wine bar was Champagne. I can’t remember the name of it. But I have a picture of a fox on it. Yeah. Cool. Yeah. Can you talk to us about the obsession of champagne amongst Italians? Because I’ve done some research, I’ve been told that Italy is the number one per capita consumer of champagne. You talk to a lot of champagne producers; they say they they’re some of their largest allocations of some of the coolest champagne houses that we like clamor for here in the States. Go to Italy first. What’s the deal? Why do you guys I mean, I get it. But like, it seems like a culturally endemic thing is like we just drink bubbles like,  

Camilla Bellini  33:22 

Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting, because actually, you had mentioned this in the email, and it just I started thinking about it a lot. I think champagne has always been around I mean, I just grew up with champagne was it represents, you know, luxury, but it represents celebration. It’s something that you can basically drink at any time of the day. And you know, it’s it’s always been very present for sure. In Italy, especially up in the north, I have to say that they’re more into it even more like they will have it by the glass. Florence has never been a city with champagne by the glass. It works more in a bottle than in a glass I have to say. But no, and it was very interesting theme. And so it was funny because they went to lunch to the model, which is an amazing sort of books shop that has a little small lunch place and you can have tea and coffee. And they have wine and it’s right near the wine bar. And I went there with a really good friend of mine. He’s a colleague, he sells me wine and he loves champagne. So I was having lunch with him and then the table next to us there were two important wine producers in the area in Florence Paulo multione and tomato truffle at and so I just ended up with these people. And we just started talking about champagne. Because I told them like you know, what is this thing about champagne in Italy? Because it’s true. It just it seems so obvious to me. But why? And I mean, so many things came out of it and it was a great, so thank you for saying this because if I had the best conversation ever, and I learned so much but no, it was just interesting because we noticed as well like I think the formula owner this year was the first year that they opened up a filter 30 Instead of champagne? 

Danielle Callegari  35:03 

That’s right. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. 

Camilla Bellini  35:05 

That’s crazy. I never realized that. But I mean, they’ve always done champagne. They’ve never done Italian bubbles. So that was interesting. The French have been making champagne for a very long time, a longer time than Italians have been making any sort of bubble. And I think they have a head start for sure. And they’re better at it. I mean, this is something that I’m not afraid to say. It’s, especially for my personal tastes, I just always enjoy more having champagne in any other bubble. I’ve always tasted other bubbles, but it’s just it’s the one that, to me is always so much more special. Because I mean, it’s been centuries. And Italians, you know, arrived a little bit late on that. And then the other aspect is that French are very good at selling wine. 

Camilla Bellini  35:49 

They know what they have, they give value to it, and they go for it. And they’ve always done it. And you can tell from the market everywhere in the world, the most wine that you see, and especially considered like in a fancy place, French wine. So yeah, I think it has a lot to do with that. I mean, geographically we’re very close by, I think it just it’s that I have not really, it’s interesting, I hope that as I go along in this journey, I’ll find out more about it. 

Camilla Bellini  36:17 

In my case, the wine bar, I just love champagne, so much. It was so important in my family, any type of celebration that it was just so obvious to me to have that. A lot of it a lot of different options in the wine bar. And my wine bar looks like a place that would have champagne. I think people just automatically walk inside. I mean, it’s true that I have a Taittinger poster. That’s huge. But I mean, the place that just makes you crave champagne. So I mean, I don’t have a perfect answer for that. But for sure, it’s a combination of a lot of things. And it’s interesting, too, that Florence is just I’ve had champagne by the glass for some reason and does not work so much as the bottle the bottle goes a lot faster than the glass.  

Jeff Porter  37:02 

Yeah, that’s super interesting. The and again, I think that vibe check when, you know, Danielle and I spent a lot of time out and roaming around and grazing and drinking the hazardous part of our passion and jobs. But there’s a again, I just I like I’m getting goosebumps thinking I mean, I’ve only been to your place twice. And it was within the same week. Like I have not stopped. I was in your place in December of 2022. I haven’t been back since I have not stopped thinking about your wine bar since that week. And like I walked in with Madalena and Matteo. And then I brought back a whole crew of American Sommeliers. And we’re on a text chain, we talk about it a lot. Because I think the moment you cross the threshold, like I said, you’ve got these kind of high top tables on the left a shelf with mirrors shelf above them with wines, then you got an elevated bar with your little kitchenette. And there’s like a toaster oven. It’s it’s small. The music is right. The way you dress the your employees have an energy to them to that is elevated. And the moment you walk in, and it is I want to be your norm. I want to be like I’m going to I’m about to be free from some things. And Florence is not going to get enough for me. It’s going to have enough for me, but I’m going to be there. Hey, Norm Hey, Jeff. But like, how do you like how is the vibe evolved? I mean, because everything music changes taste change, like you say you’re experimenting with your own sense of palate, but also tradition. You know, how do you keep that vibe going? Because, you know, from 2015, to now going through COVID We haven’t even touched what you did during COVID. That’s that’s a year almost a decade of being a wine bar, which is a huge accomplishment in any space and hospitality. So kudos to that. Because it’s so hard. Yeah. But like, yeah, that vibe so good. 

Camilla Bellini  39:04 

 Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a lot of combinations. For sure. The music, music is so important to me. I think people don’t it’s a detail that it’s just it touches everything. So I don’t understand why people don’t pay attention to it. I think it’s very important. And then I guess another thing is that the main characters are the people who come. And I cannot stress that enough. I mean, I love people that have a passion. And I love people that are very serious about it. But we’re not saving lives, that it’s something that we always have to remind ourselves in that sense, and it’s about the people coming there and having a good time. And that’s yeah, that’s the main the main, you know, what we want for people to understand like that you can go there and you’re the main character and you’re having wine and a good time. And then even my team that I work with butcher. I mean, it used to be myself and then suddenly I had another person and another person and then another person now it’s a team of six, almost, I think, yeah, six. And it’s getting tougher, the more they are, but it’s actually but it’s more fun to, and I don’t feel so alone as they used to be so isolated. Now, it’s, it’s fun to, you know, we laugh, and it’s great. And now they the clients that come the local clients, they expect them, and they love them. And so they have relationships with them. And they, so I’m really happy about that. But the thing is that I’ve always tried to have people, young people who did not know too much about wine that loved wine that liked wine that wanted to get into wine, but not the people who already studied too much about wine. Because it was no disrespect for that. Absolutely. I don’t want to seem like it just to me, it just made people feel more at ease. If you’re learning as you’re working, and you’re not scared of that, and you learn as you open up new bottles, you are going to transmit that better to a client, I think, and you’re going to have interesting conversations about it. And then it just it’s interesting to see how they evolved as well. I mean, some of them really, were not into wine that much they said they would I think they’ve just wanted the job. And so maybe lied a little bit, and now they’re wine monsters like now they’re freaks. And now there’ll be like, No, I can’t drink. That is not good enough, or this and that. So I love that part. And I think that has to do a lot with it. And people shouldn’t be scared if they don’t know about stuff. If you’re open to it. And my mom has always told me you just need to drink a lot of wine to understand wine. I mean, that’s basically the key. Don’t read too many books. You know, I mean, it’s good to read books and everything, but it’s good to just drink it too, and, and enjoy it and see why I like this more than that. And so I think that’s sort of what creates the atmosphere to that it’s not so uptight. Maybe? I don’t know, that’s maybe a good word, I guess. I don’t know.  

Danielle Callegari  41:58 

Definitely. Definitely. I think I think that brings us to a perfect point for concluding here also. Because what we were hoping to get to was what makes you know, the discretion of education, comfort? What do people not know that they should know? And when we’re talking to somebody like you, we’re excited to hear what you’re excited about? That’s it, you’re not because you’re an expert, or because you’re better at it than anybody, but because of the passion and the energy. Right? That’s it. That’s the thing that that is the dividing line, we can all read a lot of books I’ve read, a whole bunch of them hasn’t necessarily. You’ve read, you’ve written a book, I’ve written a couple as well absolutely. That has not necessarily made me a more content member of society. But drinking wine has on the other hand, right? And so, you know, maybe as a little fun way of wrapping up here, we could just ask you all so what are you? Where are the places that you go? When you’re not at work? What are the things that you drink, when you’re not worried about you know, the, I think the description you gave earlier was so great. A wine, the best kind of wine is a wine that you don’t think about while you’re drinking it because you’re having such a good time. But then later on, you say, oh, man, that was amazing. Like there was a hole in that bottle, we went right through it. Right. So, you know, what are the things that you’re popping for yourself? What are the where are the places that you go? And or maybe even more broadly, what are the things that you’re kind of thinking about right now that are at the top of your list in terms of Italian wine for people who are listening and getting excited and thirsty to us right now? 

Camilla Bellini  43:40 

Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting. I mean, in, in Florence, especially I go to always sort of the same places, I don’t like to think about it too much. I feel like Florence is where I live and work. And

so you know, I mean, I just have those security blankets, you know, when I’m not working, I need to go play. So I don’t want to think about too much. I mean, it’s always nice to see what’s going on what’s opening. But there’s always those three places that to me are the best in the world. And that’s just where I love to go without even thinking. When I do travel, I do put a lot more effort and try new places and looking for things that are different. I have to say something that I really have seen a lot in London, and I’ve seen here as well. It’s the new idea of having places where you have small plates of and you have many different options. And it’s not just the traditional appetizer, and then the first the main, the first course and then the main course and you have these long hours of sitting down which is great, but you know, you need that like more on a Sunday or a certain occasion like Italian so not every day. And to have a lot of different plates and you can combine with glasses of wine. I think that is the best the best fun that you can have is already in small plates with three different glasses of wine and just seeing how they sort of go with each other. They do if they don’t, which works better. And so those are the places that I think or the future, people don’t have hours, like they don’t eat all at the same time anymore. It’s not like people have lunch at the same time, even in Italy, this is changing, you know, you might not be able to have lunch until three o’clock and a lot of criteria, they close at 230 the kitchen. And so, people are desperate. And that’s what I’m going to do next year, I want to open for lunch again, because originally, we were always open for lunch. And then after COVID, we didn’t for a while. And that was okay, because it just we worked so well in the evening that it was perfect. But now I want to go back to that because I want to give that option of having different, you know, small plates of different types of food, that it’s always about quality and seasonal foods and the combination with the wine. And so that is something that I’m looking forward to that I’m gonna do for sure in my wine bar. And I can see that it’s happening in other places as well. 

Camilla Bellini  45:52 

Because I just think our lifestyle is so different from how it used to be. 

Danielle Callegari  45:55 

I think Jeff probably would also agree with this, that it’s just like, bringing us back to the idea that it’s all about creating community, right. So like you’re wanting to offer that, because it’s part of your business model. And it’s practical. And it’s you know, it’s a nice thing to be able to be open and people know that they can stumble in and bring it and allowing people to have just a good and a gastronomic experience. But it’s essentially about the fact that you’re also serving a need and letting people know that they can always be welcome. And that’s absolutely yeah, that’s what we’re trying to get to, I think, right? 

Camilla Bellini  46:29 

Yeah. And we’re like, what was saying before I love I mean, I guess when I was younger, it didn’t really matter if there was food when I was drinking, because you know, you go to parties, and it doesn’t really, you know, there’s maybe popcorn on the table or whatever. But you know, as I’m getting older, I realize how these two things need to go together? Absolutely. I think it’s so important that even if it’s just a small piece of cheese, even, it’s just a small thing. It just changes experience in your mouth completely with especially wine. And I think that is something that I’m looking forward that I can see that people are getting into that and are understanding that a lot more. And it’s so personal to I mean, my grandmother used to say, you know, in the stomach, it’s dark. So you don’t I mean, and I always thought that was pretty funny. But now I’m changing my mind a little bit about this. I mean, it’s so interesting how it completely changes. And it just creates a whole a little package, you know, of something that is so delicious and great. And you don’t need that much of it. And it just goes a long way. So yeah, that’s, that’s what I’m very I’m looking forward to for sure. 

Jeff Porter  47:29 

I think, again, to fawn over your brilliance is that as a as a person who loves hospitality and gets frustrated when I travel. And I see people that don’t have intention, like you’ve mentioned all the things like when I think of great places, music, hiring for passion versus knowledge, just the way you you set the table for community. That intention is key, and you can feel it. And that’s what separates you from other operators within Florence and globally. So, I want to thank you for that intention and give you the props that deserve it props, because not everybody thinks in intentional manners. They think of financial manners, and they think of they think of all the things that don’t build community. And that’s a beautiful thing. 

Camilla Bellini  48:22 

No, no, I think I would just be so bored. 

Jeff Porter  48:27 

I met a lot of boring operators. But one last thing, you know, I, you know, I haven’t unlike Danielle, I haven’t lived in Florence. I love visiting. But you know, let’s say, Danielle, we’re going to come together, we’re gonna visit you. Quick, rapid fire. Where do we go for coffee? Where do we meet in the morning,  

Camilla Bellini  48:46 

I would say the bar in front of my wine bar. It’s old school. It’s old school. They look at you funny, but they’re so sweet. Once you get into their hearts. It’s it’s the real Florence. It’s how it used to be. And it was the first place where they started making these juices. Because a client of theirs had a daughter that had a cancer and it was the 80s and he started doing these special juices and they started thinking like maybe what you eat could really impact if you’re sick, you know your sickness. And so I just love that place. It was run by the family. So yeah, the I can’t I mean, they have like three names. It’s like my pancrazio but it’s exactly in front of the wine bar and it’s not fancy at all, but it’s just I’ve never seen a place so clean. And I they inspire me so much how they keep the order there. And I don’t know it’s all women to who run it so I don’t know. I love it. I think it’s a good place. I mean, there’s so many other places, but that’s the place that has kept me alive for anything. So there you go. Yeah. 

Jeff Porter  49:49 

Where do we get gelato? 

Camilla Bellini  49:51 

Gelato, I’m not the great person to ask. I’m not I don’t really like it that much but for So 

Danielle Callegari  50:01 

I agree with that place a lot. Yeah. On the corner from there so I have a soft, 

Jeff Porter  50:06 

A dangerous one a Negroni? 

Camilla Bellini  50:07 

A negroni? ….Yeah, exactly. Yeah, …… Oh, gin bar. It’s important martinis are very important in my life Phusion has amazing martinis. 

Jeff Porter  50:28 

And my last question is, what is the one super touristy place in Florence? Like, like a site, not a restaurant or anything like that, that still you get inspiration from? 

Camilla Bellini  50:42 

I guess, palazzo palatino latina. The one in Palatini, because it’s where the Medici family used to live. And just it’s so interesting. And the paintings and there’s always some reference about rapes or wine or food or something. I don’t know. I guess that’s the first thing that came into my mind that for sure. And then I mean, I do have them was El Medina, Medina in my square. And that is just such an important space too, because it’s so different from the you know, from the art that you that we see every day, I mean, that we’re surrounded because Medina Medina was an artist from the 1900s. So I mean, that can be that’s a good that’s an inspiration as well. I mean, those two places, I guess. Yeah, for sure. 

Danielle Callegari  51:26 

That’s nice. That’s a tight ring you 

Camilla Bellini  51:33 

Well, yeah, I mean, that is Italian and you know, style. That’s how you live upstairs 

Jeff Porter  51:38 

like you go like 10 meter square. 

Camilla Bellini  51:42 

The other side of the river and I love the fact that the river divides it. I’m in some one of the best areas and for sure, divide some Yeah, work and you know, life and everything. So, yeah. Which is my bike still. I mean, it’s not like it’s still American. Yeah. 

Jeff Porter  52:02 

It’s far enough. 

Camilla Bellini  52:03 

Yeah, exactly. 

Danielle Callegari  52:04 

Yeah. Well unsurprised over, because we love talking to you. And we’re so excited. 

Camilla Bellini  52:10 

Thank you so much. Thank you.  

Danielle Callegari  52:11 

Oh, we’re so appreciative of having you and your time. And we hope I can’t imagine that anybody has listened and not been excited enough to book themselves a chip, and with first stop and a quick video. But more importantly, hopefully, it inspired everybody to just start thinking about hospitality, and community, in tandem with Italian wine and wine more generally, because those are the things that exactly give the value that transcends any single bottle or a single place or any single person. So, thank you so much again, come talking to me. Yeah. 

Jeff Porter  52:50 

Thank you so much. Okay, great.  

Jacy Topps  53:00 

Wine bars have become increasingly ubiquitous over the years. And while they all serve wine, they’re not all created equally. Yes, good wine bars should offer a great gastronomic experience, and a stellar wine list. But the really great ones are intentionally creating community, making sure all of their guests return. What are your thoughts? If you liked today’s episode, we’d love to read your reviews and hear what you think. You can email us your comments and questions at podcast at Wine Enthusiast. dotnet. And hey, why not tell your wine loving friends to check us out to remember, you can subscribe to this podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. You can also go to wine enthusiast.com backslash podcasts. For more episodes and transcripts. I’m Jacy Topps. Thanks for listening.