Tableside with a Somm: SRV
Captain Lou (Off the Top Rope) (Russell House Tavern)
May’s Can’t-Miss Dish
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.
It’s easy to get Ted Hawkins talking about his long-standing love. The general manager and wine director of SRV traces his fascination with restaurants back to a childhood in New York City.
“I was a really hungry kid,” says Hawkins, musing on his reputation as a good eater. He eagerly anticipated dining out with his parents on special occasions. “It was second nature for me to wonder, ‘What are the servers wearing? What do the bathrooms look like?’” It was clear that his appetite extended far beyond what was on the plate.
Later, when the family moved to Hawaii, Hawkins worked summers at sports bars on Waikiki Beach. But it wasn’t until he landed in town to attend Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration and began working at the restaurants of chef Barbara Lynch that his passion for fine dining blossomed. “It was an exciting time,” he says, recounting how he started as a server at Menton, then worked as a manager at No. 9 Park. “My peers were veterans of the industry, and there was a steep learning curve.” Hawkins relished the opportunity to do a deep dive into wine, learning and tasting alongside his colleagues.
Today, the wine pro curates an Italian-focused list of a hundred bottles at SRV, the South End’s Venetian-style wine bar from the Coda Restaurant Group’s Jim Cochener and Mike Moxley, with a kitchen headed by chef-partners Kevin O’Donnell and Michael Lombardi. “I like to offer guests a wide scope, a look into as many of the varietals and regions of Italy as possible,” Hawkins says. “But the list is very focused on Piedmont and Tuscany.”
One of those Tuscan gems is a 2014 Rosso di Montalcino from Fattoria del Pino, a family operation whose winemaker is Jessica Pellegrini. Hawkins sings the praises of Nick Mucci of Mucci Imports, who brings the wine to Massachusetts and is known for strong relationships with makers in his portfolio. “His wines have a connection to terroir that’s embedded in the traditions of the people,” says Hawkins.
The red is as sumptuous as it is versatile. “It’s a beautiful, one hundred percent sangiovese that sees some barrel work,” he says, describing how the wine’s acidity, grip, and structure pair splendidly with pan-roasted chicken accompanied by peppery arugula, green almonds, and peverada, a sauce made from chicken livers and ‘nduja sausage. “I have this memory of grilling chicken in beautiful weather,” he enthuses. “This wine screams chicken.”
Also on the spring menu is mafalde, ribbons of curly-edged pasta sauced with a sugo made from the jowl meat of a whole roasted pig’s head. The dish is topped with fermented fennel and first-of-the-season ramps. Alongside, Hawkins pours a 2015 Movia Ribolla. The front label also lists ‘rebula,’ the name of the grape in Slovenian, where the wine is made just across the Italian border. Crafted on a three-centuries-old estate, the white offers intriguing texture that balances the rich sauce and elevates the anise-like flavors of the fennel.
“It’s bright and zippy, with salinity like a fino sherry,” says the somm. “It’s super fresh.”