The immaterial profession of Vincenzo Donatiello

Magazine November 2019
10/11/2019
When a woman makes a career at a restaurant, and she is not a chef
15/11/2019

The maître of Piazza Duomo tell us his story, from the beginnings in the kitchen to the starred dining rooms. With an outgoing project: a book to rewrite the new Italian service

Vincenzo Donatiello, restaurant manager and head sommelier of the three-star Michelin’s Piazza Duomo in Alba, has just returned from the cellar, where he spent the morning choosing wines. He takes a break, the time of a cigarette. “I have little time to do anything. The only time of day when I go slowly is in the morning. I do sports, I arrive at the restaurant, and I do a quick check on emergencies. Then I check the emails, I dedicate time to customers who have my personal number. I go down to the cellar, choose the wines for the day, select those to be tasted, then, if it’s possible in the afternoon, I take fifteen minutes of air before the evening service”.

It is curious that Donatiello began his career as a chef. Best Junior Sommelier of Italy in 2004 and Best Sommelier of Romagna in 2010, man of the year 2013 for the magazine “Italia a Tavola”, and recently Best Dining Room Director for the Touring Club: no one could ever imagine that he started in the kitchen. “I come from a family that had completely different jobs, my father is a workman. When I finished the hotel manager high school in Vieste, I wanted to be a chef. Then, I had a job interview at the Lido di Savio hotel and the manager told me to spend a working season in the dining room first. There, I realized that I didn’t care about cooking, and my vocation came out, even though I didn’t feel up to it yet. At the end of 2008 I decided to go all-in: either I make a quality leap or I go to work in the furnace with my father”.

Indeed, he made the quality leap. Donatello starts at “La Frasca” of Gianfranco Bolognesi, then at Pascucci in Fiumicino; then at “Piastrino” of Riccardo Agostini and at the Piazza Duomo. “Two weeks after assigning the three Michelin’s stars to Piazza Duomo, they called me from the court of Enrico Crippa, and I didn’t submit any application. I have been coordinating all the staff for five years now”.

Born in 1985, Donatiello lays the foundations of his work in the relationship with the customer, in the looks, in the handshakes, in the brief moments in which, a little by instinct, a little by experience, he manages to understand what kind of person the customer is. “I have to make everyone feel at ease. From the sports bar to the three-star Michelin’s, hospitality must be the same”. Attention to the dining room, therefore, and to the work brigade, with an eye to youngsters: “Travel a lot, but then come back. I am writing it in my book: we people of the dining room still can’t make material something that seems immaterial. As long as people think we are just dish racks, the concept of what we do will never change. Our work is a matter of generosity“.

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