Posted on | January 24, 2014
Written by | W.R. Tish
Restaurateur Tony Vallone, whose namesake Tony’s is a Houston culinary icon, has added a new target for the city’s wine and food cognescenti: Vallone’s, serving up steak, fish, chops and homemade pasta in the Memorial City neighborhood. We caught up with Scott Sulma, partner and general manager, a veteran of the restaurant group who is overseeing the wine program at the new outpost, to get his take on being able to start a fresh spin-off of a well-established operation.
THE BEVERAGE NETWORK: What is a favorite current pairing from your menu and list?
SCOTT SULMA: 55-day dry aged beef and a Tuscan Red such as 2008 San Fiorenzo Brunello di Montalcino, an accessible and affordable Brunello, approachable right out of the bottle, with that classic Tuscan nose. Or 2010 Petrolo “Torrione,” a Tuscan blend from one of the great houses of Italy, but at a very accessible price point.
TBN: What has done especially well for you by the glass?
SS: In whites: 2012 Ramey Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast and 2012 La Fiera Pinot Grigio. In reds: 2012 Sandrone Dolcetto and 2006 Pietro Beconcini “Reciso.” Sparkling: Taittinger Brut Française.
TBN: In opening a new restaurant, what was your aim for the wine program?
SS: We wanted a very approachable list with attractive price points, but we also want to introduce our guests to more boutique producers as we build relationships with them.
TBN: Do you have a strategy for displaying wines at the restaurant?
SS: Wine is art, and at Vallone’s it is prominently displayed in a 33-foot tall, all-glass wine cellar.
TBN: Were there any adjustments you made in terms of format for the list?
TBN: People have become familiar with the concept of steak wines. How about pasta—do you think there are ‘pasta wines’?
SS: We don’t like to dictate what a guest drinks. We certainly feel there are ideal bottles for all dishes, but if you’re in the mood for something else you’re going to get it.
TBN: How many distributors do you do business with?
SS: 20 plus.
TBN: What software system do you use to manage your list/inventory?
SS: We do all inventory by hand. We like to feel the bottles. When you do it by hand, you’re also maintaining the inventory, by handling and turning the bottles.
TBN: Do you have a system/routine for managing your wine orders?
SS: It’s all about personal relationship with our purveyors. If we have a party that drinks us out of Vietti, we call and get Vietti in the next day. We don’t standardize or automate because then the guest would suffer.
TBN: What are some recent trend(s) you have noticed in wine in general?
SS: People are flocking to Italian wines with open arms and we are thrilled.
Cuisine: Modern Steakhouse
Selections on the wine list: 375
Price range of list: $45-$1,200
Average bottle price: $85
Sweet spot on list: Italian red and domestic Cabernet Sauvignon, blends and single-variety wines, $65-$145
Wine list strengths: A healthy balance between steakhouse classics and Italian cult.
Wines by the glass: 35, adjusted weekly
Price range by the glass: $11-$45
Type of stemware: Mircenza
Preservation system used: WineEmotion