Welcome back to the Our Italians series! Today we speak with Massimo Crippa of L’Angolo Divino about what it’s like owning an enoteca in Rome today. L’Angolo Divino is a wine bar located near Campo de Fiori with a truly impressive wine list. Massimo’s passion for wine is evident in every detail, from the careful curation of his wine list to his longstanding relationships with producers.
Casa Mia: Ciao Massimo! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what first got you interested in wine?
Massimo: Drink, drink, drink. *Laughs.* It’s not easy, because at first it was almost like a casual passion, but now it has been a long time. In the past it was a different generation, they had a different view of the market that is completely changing all the time, every year. Now the people are looking at it in a context with less money but a more interesting vision of food and wine. The evolution of the market in Rome today is very fast, not like it was in the past.
CM: Could you tell me a little more about the history of L’Angolo Divino?
M: My family has been here since 1946, I have been here for 22 years and we changed it from a store that sold wine and olive oil to a wine bar. The Enoteca was created 22 years ago when we introduced wines by the glass as well as salumi, cheeses, and bruschette. At first I was a pioneer in Rome, now I am more part of the group. Now we are more evolved in our food offerings.
CM: How do you choose what wines to serve at the Enoteca?
M: Sometimes I use emotion, sometimes it’s a feeling, sometimes it’s a passion. I have a passion for the producer, also for natural wines. Every year there are always new producers, and I research day by day about new producers and the new natural wines. People now pay much more attention to the healthy and the organic, this has been the style for 10 years or so. People think wine is the support for the food, but for me wine is the principal argument, and then everything about food turns around the choices of the wine. Because of this, our wine list is very large and extensive.
CM: Do you go to vineyards to choose the wines?
M: The first point is to talk and speak with the producers, outside from the words in the magazine or on the internet or social media. For me what’s important is my impression when I talk to the people.
CM: Are there any regions in particular that you focus on when it comes to choosing wine to serve at the enoteca?
M: My focus is of course Piedmont, because it is the focal point of wine history in Italy. Piedmont and Tuscany are both very important to me. But today everywhere in Italy is becoming more important in terms of wine production. The philosophy for producing wine, the knowledge and the experience is becoming more evident from Sardegna to Sicily to Valle d’Aosta.
CM: There are so many wine bars in Rome, what makes L’Angolo Divino unique?
M: Maybe the choice of the wine. My sometimes very in-depth research for a certain type of producer is very unique, rare, it’s difficult to find this in Rome. And now I’m trying to evolve also in the kitchen. We serve a few very specific plates, and we use ingredients from Rome. I try to replicate more Roman traditions, but I don’t have gricia, carbonara, or amatriciana on my menu. I usually have fresh pasta from a local producer, and I try to make only a few dishes divided among cold, warm, and hot preparations.
CM: Could you tell me more about what goes into choosing your menu?
M: It depends on the season and what there is in the market. I choose what the market offers. It makes no sense to prepare artichokes when it is not the season.
CM: Have you noticed a shift in the attitudes of consumers when it comes to wine? For instance, are more of your customers interested in “natural” or local wines?
M: Yes, now I am more and more focused on natural wines. I think that this is the way you can drink well, have much more passion, and of course drink more.
CM: Aside from natural wines, what do you think is “trendy” in the wine world right now?
M: It depends on the individual, usually people are very curious about natural wine. Sometimes the taste and color can be considered a little aggressive; the US nickname is “orange wine.” People are usually interested in natural or organic, or a specific area of production.
CM: How would you define natural wine?
M: Technically these are wines made with natural yeast, without chemicals or filtration, but practically it is another story. Because it depends a lot on the grape, zone, producers, and so many arguments that are hard to put into question.
CM: Would you say that every vineyard has their own specifications, or way of producing natural wine?
M: Of course. Experience, knowledge, every place has their own. We say now that natural wine is becoming a very common story, but at the same time we need to distinguish the improvement of natural wine and natural wine producers compared to 10 years ago has notably greown. It’s a process.
CM: Are your clients usually tourists locals, or a mix of both?
M: Usually it is mostly tourists, but first there were many Italians. However, since the Campo de’ Fiori area has changed so much, there are no Romans here anymore. This is very sad for someone born and raised in this part of Rome.
CM: What wine would you recommend to a first time visitor?
M: It depends on the wine that there is in the moment, it also depends on the knowledge and experience of the visitor. I can’t recommend certain natural wines if they’ve never had a natural wine before. If they’ve had natural wine, it depends on their level of knowledge and experience and what they have done in order to understand natural wine. I can’t put someone on a motorcycle who has only driven a bicycle, they would say that I am crazy!
CM: I had never tried natural wine before I came to Rome, the first I tried was a white wine from the Le Coste winery.
M: Ah, the cousin of Gian Marco Antonuzzi, who has the Le Coste winery, started to produce wine. This is a natural white wine from him, made from 100% Procanico grapes (better known as Trebbiano Toscano). Now he has only two acres and produces two types of wine.
CM: Thank you, it’s delicious. I know it’s a difficult question, but do you have a favorite glass of wine?
M: Today, this one *gestures to the wine we are drinking*. Today that, tomorrow who knows?
Thank you very much, Massimo.
Via dei Balestrari, 12
Julia Terranova is a Brooklyn born, Italian-American student with a love of Rome and all things Italy. She spends her time cooking for friends and reading as many cookbooks as she can find.