Tableside with a Somm: Giulia

Brian Samuels

Curious about restaurant wine lists? Each month, Boston Globe wine columnist Ellen Bhang chats with a sommelier about a couple of terrific bottles and recommends food pairings—you come away a savvier sipper.

Trevor William Martinez could regale you with tales of dinner with the glitterati of the Italian wine world, but that’s not what inspires him. The general manager and beverage director of Giulia Restaurant in Cambridge would rather recount a garden lunch with a winegrowing family in Campania.

“Until you’re at Francesca’s table, and she’s making a seven-course lunch, you don’t see what it’s like,” he says. “It’s like, ‘Oh! I’m Italian today. This is real.’ It warms your soul.”

Experiences like that afternoon with the Salerno family, proprietors of winery Casa di Baal, motivate the ever-polished, always-gracious Martinez to curate a 70-bottle list of all-Italian varietals. Twenty of those wines are also poured by the glass. The selection showcases the wares of small producers, and that’s intentional. The wine world, he observes, is full of “big, crazy, internationally marketed” quaffs which hold little interest for him. “I try to keep connected to producers I’ve had a chance to meet in person, here or in Italy,” he says.

Brian Samuels

One of the ways he maintains those connections is through Nick Mucci, a Boston-based importer of Italian wines. Martinez was helping chef-owner Michael Pagliarini and his wife Pamela Ralston launch the restaurant around the same time Mucci was starting his company. By visiting winemakers in his friend’s portfolio, Martinez says he keeps his “hands in the soil.” Last year, he stayed with the Salerno family during harvest.

A 2012 Casa di Baal “Aglianico di Baal” represents an intergenerational labor of love. In the 1970s, patriarch Annibale Salerno was an olive oil producer who made bulk wine to supplement the family income. Today, his five children have taken the reins of the wine operation, including his daughter Francesca, who cooked that lovely lunch.

Martinez can’t say enough about the lithe, juicy red. “It’s drinking great,” he says. “On its own, it’s texturally well-balanced, with a dried currant character and an earthiness that’s not apparent until you experience it with mushrooms.” That makes the wine a natural alongside wild boar pappardelle, a signature dish prepared by chef de cuisine Brian Gianpoalo. Glossy black trumpet mushrooms dot the sumptuous ribbons of pasta.

Brian Samuels

Another artisanal pour—a 2016 Muscari Tomajoli “Nethun” Vermentino—hails from vineyards north of Rome. This lively white from Lazio is crafted by Marco Muscari, a young winemaker intent on upholding tradition. His late father, Sergio, dreamed of crafting pours as good as those in neighboring Tuscany. The briny white is rich enough to harmonize with a seafood course, a silky bundle of burrata, or a salad of the bitter green called puntarelle. “It has everything, from fruit, to herbs, to minerality,” he notes. “It’s a really good example of what we do here.”

On a recent weeknight, a small crowd has gathered on the sidewalk, poised to snag seats at the bar right at opening. “Here comes Trevor now!” exclaims a regular, peering through the window. With a flourish, he draws back the taupe-colored curtains, and opens the door wide.

The wine pro says that the best part of his job is the people. Among these happy guests, the feeling is definitely mutual.

Brian Samuels

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