Un Bicchiere di Vino con IL Postino….Vittoria Trattoria
We continue this month with our coverage of Ottawa’s wine personalities. This month, we are featuring another brother tandem: Domenic and Cesare Santaguida, owners of Vittoria Trattoria, located at 35 William Street and 3625 Rivergate Way.
The brothers opened their first restaurant in 1991. Back then, it was located in the Glebe under the name Vittoria Veal and Delicatessen. It had only 13 wine labels when they first started out. A big help in the early days was nonna Rachele author of many recipes. She worked at the restaurant for many years until she “retired” at age 93! Also, playing an important role then and today is their sister Francesca who is responsible for the continuing business development of both restaurants. The present location on William Street was opened in 1996, while the second location on Rivergate Way was opened in 2003.
The brothers are graduates of Algonquin’s Sommelier Program. In 2003, Cesare was voted “Wine Person of the Year” by the National Capital Sommelier Guild. Vittoria Trattoria is the sponsor of their own award at Algonquin College and it is given to the year’s top graduating student. In 2006, Domenic was awarded the “Forty under Forty” for his passion for the restaurant business.
Recently, I sat down with Cesare at the William Street location.
DC: Cesare, I’ve known you and your brother for many, many years going back to when we went to Italian school together. Who was the restaurant named after and when did you decide that the restaurant business was what you wanted to do?
CS: The restaurant was named after our nonna Vittoria on my mom’s side. As a young man I had worked at Fettuccine’s back on Bank Street. But my real inspiration for this business was my nonna Rachele.
DC: Cesare, I know you and your brother have an extensive wine collection. How many wines can patrons choose from here?
CS: We have about 7500 bottles presently in stock. These come from about 700-800 titles.
DC: I noticed on the wall all your Best of Award of Excellence from the prestigious Wine Spectator magazine. Congratulations!
CS: Thanks. We were first awarded the Award of Excellence back in 1999 and achieved the Best of in 2003. We are very happy with this recognition. There are only about 500 restaurants in the world with this achievement.
DC: How many wines do you offer by the glass?
CS: We currently offer 32 wines by the glass and over 150 wines by the half bottle.
DC: What are your top selling wines?
CS: Over 70% of our sales are red. Currently, our top sellers are Chianti’s. It does not matter which producer. Customers at the moment are in love with Chianti. In the whites, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are the best sellers.
DC: Do you carry any consignment wines?
CS: About 40% of our wine list is from consignment, 40% from the Vintages section at the LCBO and 20% from the general listing. From our consignment list, I would recommend the Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva and for whites the Venica Pinot Grigio.
DC: How many Sommeliers do you have on staff?
CS: Between the 2 restaurants we have 12.
DC: Cesare, which wine appreciation events have you had at the restaurant?
CS: The last event involved the owner of Cloudy Bay from New Zealand. I hope to bring in some small producers from Italy in the future.
DC: Cesare, what are some of your favourite wines.
CS: Dom, right now, I am all over the map. This is a very common question people ask me. I like good quality wine like anyone does. My goal is to find inexpensive wines of excellent quality. Recently, I had a Malbec from Argentina which came in at under $20 per bottle, but tasted like a $40 bottle of wine. We all know that the $100 bottle of wine will be excellent most of the time. However, it is those gems that taste out of this world and won’t break the bank that I search for. I want these gems not only for myself, but also for my customers. I also enjoy good quality whites and absolutely love Champagne.
DC: Are there any food and wine matches at the restaurant that work really well?
CS: My sommeliers are very knowledgeable and make suggestions to our patrons all the time. However, they are never pushy with this knowledge. We leave the choice up to the customer. Dom, as you are aware, today’s customer is better educated. They travel, try new wines, watch cooking shows, take courses at Algonquin for example. I would also say, having travelled across Canada, that Ottawa is a very well educated “wine” city compared to other cities in Canada.
DC: Cesare, talk to me about the process of introducing new wines to the restaurant.
CS: My brother Dom and I make those decisions. Our wine lists changes every week. Today for example, we added 3 new wines to the list.
DC: Cesare, thanks for sharing some of your thoughts with my readers and I today. I wish you and your brother Dom, the very best.
If you have any questions or suggestions for future columns, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Domenico Cellucci is a wine consultant and educator and is a graduate of Algonquin College’s Sommelier Program. He puts on food and wine matching events in the national capital area. He has visited wineries and vineyards in Italy, France, British Columbia, Ontario and the United States.