Vincenzo & Mauro

Changing of the guard at Piazza Duomo in Alba. Donatiello is the new entry, Mattei moves to sales

28-year-old Vincenzo Donatiello from Basilicata is

28-year-old Vincenzo Donatiello from Basilicata is the new sommelier at Piazza Duomo in Alba (Cuneo), the 3 Michelin starred restaurant with chef Enrico Crippa. Outgoing sommelier Mauro Mattei stays in the Ceretto company, becoming the wine sales manager, also responsible for importing wines, an increasingly relevant activity

The word’s “sommelier” etymology originates from ancient Provençal and means “guiding the cattle”. Today this action is transferred to guiding among wines and to matching them with dishes, to the knowledge of a wine and of a restaurant. Vincenzo Donatiello and Mauro Mattei are two “shepherds” who have followed one another at Piazza Duomo in Alba. Vincenzo is obstinate and attentive, Mauro is shrewd and generous. What stands out in both men is their curiosity: the former arrives in February in Alba, after coming up from Gargano through Rome and then Romagna where he spent a few years. Waiting for him was Mattei who has also travelled across Italy from Modica.

The question of handovers is lengthy and is rarely smoothly resolved. Among the two of them, however, a chemistry soon appeared: “The handover only happens if you speak the same language” says Mauro. In Vincenzo he found the way of explaining and being understood, because behind each glass there is the choice of how to build a cellar, how to structure the list and define a style in approaching the client. Creating a feeling with the client is crucial for both: the quicker you understand him, the faster you are in tune, the easier it is to find the bottle and the more you can enjoy the work, because after all “the client is the true prima-donna in the restaurant” says a pleased Vincenzo, “everything spins around him.”

Mauro Mattei from Olevano Romano, near Rome, born in 1977: progetto Terroir

Mauro Mattei from Olevano Romano, near Rome, born in 1977: progetto Terroir

Mauro has left the dining room and will manage the sales of the wines produced by the Ceretto’s (owners of the 3 starred restaurant) and also of their import branch, which is increasingly relevant. Vincenzo will have the task of maintaining identity and continuity while finding space for his personality. Determined and passionate, he says he has never been afraid of this role he has been given, because “if it’s the clients who make the restaurant, the challenge is to know them and recognise them, to know what to offer them. It’s the same, whether you’re in a three Michelin star restaurant or in a trattoria”.

Mauro shares his adrenalin-sensation of synthesis to obtain the best results. For sure, he will miss the direct relationship with the client. From now on he will have to move his curiosity in another direction, by travelling and satisfying his desire to discover the places, people and stories that you miss while you’re inside a restaurant. “You miss the contact with the earth” says Vincenzo who uses his day off to compensate this lack by visiting wineries, participating in wine tastings and events and meeting other colleagues.

Piazza Duomo's dining room. With 3 Michelin stars, its address is piazza Risorgimento 4 at Alba (Cuneo), tel. +39.0173.366167

Piazza Duomo's dining room. With 3 Michelin stars, its address is piazza Risorgimento 4 at Alba (Cuneo), tel. +39.0173.366167

“Serving is tiring and at one point you need to find a new point of view. Interest and passion are always there but you realise that a descending curve is about to start” this is how Mauro explains why a sommelier seems to desire a change in career. It’s not a question of boredom, quite the contrary, and his challenge remains within the same company: managing the sales of the Ceretto wines represents a sort of “extension” of the sommelier’s work, taking care of the Italian wines of the Ceretto family and the importing of foreign ones. The project is called Terroir.

This is a successful handover, an example worth copying and remembering in a country that is still unwilling to delegate, change, refresh. “This passage was essential, it has made me proud because it makes real all that I have built, for better and for worse. And the choice wasn’t based on aesthetics”, Mauro comments ironically, pointing at the bald-heads they both have.

In sala

The public side of a restaurant seen by its protagonists: maître, restaurant managers, waiters


Cecilia Todeschini