The Countess and the Baron

By | Mar 17, 2021 | No Comments

My last job in the restaurant business was at a beautiful Italian restaurant down in Tribeca called Scalini Fedeli, housed in the former space of the immensely popular French restaurant, Bouley. The space had vaulted ceilings and an old-world European look and feel. Scalini Fedeli was—and is still—owned by chef Michael Cetrulo, who made his mark with several well-known Italian restaurants in New Jersey before moving across the Hudson River. Scalini ranks as his crown jewel and is probably one of the country’s best Italian restaurants. I kid you not.

In addition to maintaining the dining room, which was on most weekdays peppered with some of Wall Street’s most prominent captains of industry, I maintained a 6,000 bottle cellar since wine has always been my abiding passion. As such, I was often courted by some of the biggest winemakers from around the world who wanted to get their wines on our growing list. Angelo Gaja, who I had the privilege to have dinner with a few times, is still one of my favorite winemakers to date.

But on this occasion, Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano invited me to an exclusive wine dinner at her brother’s townhouse in Greenwich Village. She had an estate in Tuscany that I once visited, called Tenuta di Argiano that had some of the best Brunello di Montalcinos I had ever tasted. That night, she was in town to introduce a new Super Tuscan wine called Suolo, which she wanted us to consider on our list.

Éric de Rothschild
Éric de Rothschild

When I arrived with my companion, I was surprised to see some of the most fashionable and glamorous Europeans. I felt completely out of my league and wondered what the heck I was doing among them. To make matters even more uncomfortable for me, she sat me next to Éric de Rothschild, the French banker, philanthropist, and owner of one of the greatest first-growth Bordeaux wineries—Château Lafite Rothschild. I think the Countess really wanted her wine on our list, and she went to great lengths to woo me, but I was already sold before I tasted it. She had me at “hello,” as they say!

My companion and I could not have been more entertained during our dinner and had a more delightful time as the evening unfolded. Baron Rothschild was amazingly gracious and invited me to his estate, which I visited sometime afterward. And aside from him, there were several other notable people, like billionaire publishing magnate S.I. Newhouse and his son, who happened to live across the street.

As it happens, I ended up adding her wines to our list and continued to keep in touch with her over the years until she sold her estate to a group of investors. But by this time, I was already out of the restaurant business and working on building my music company—my first and only true love—until I got sidetracked and ventured into this business of food and wine. But that’s another story.

Leave a Reply