Dining News

Steve Lannon, Pizzico

The man behind the bar offers a lesson in Italian wines and amari


Steve Lannon is Beverage Manager and Head Bartender at Pizzico Barrington. We talked about beginner wines, cocktail pairings and life behind the bar.

How similar is Pizzico Barrington to the original Providence location?
Our food here in Barrington is very similar to Providence’s location, but the atmosphere is where we are completely different. With Providence’s size, it is more vintage; here in Barrington it is more open and contemporary.

What’s a good starter wine for those who may be unfamiliar with Italian wines but want to develop an appreciation?
For a red wine, I personally like a nice Chianti. One that comes to mind is Rocca Della Macie 2010. It is a low cost Chianti, but is a great dinner wine. It has a medium body and rich cherry, plum, blackberry and candied floral notes. For a white wine, I think most people would like a good prosecco like Lamarca. It’s low cost, but full of white skinned fruit flavors, like green apple, pear, lemon and a light floral finish. It goes great with our raw bar and appetizers.

What is your personal favorite pairing of an Italian dish with an Italian wine?
I really like Frutti Di Mare paired with a nice glass of Orvieto, Antinori “Campogrande.” I love being in Rhode Island with all its fresh seafood.

Italian amari (bitter, herbal liqueurs) are becoming increasingly popular on drink menus. What are some of your favorites and how are they best enjoyed?
Pizzico has a few, and I am currently trying to expand that list. I think it is something guests should try at least once to complete their experience after a great Italian meal. I like Branca Menta, which is great neat, or Cynar with a few rocks and a splash of tonic water. It really helps with digestion.

Some bartenders I’ve spoken to are in favor of pairing cocktails with dinner; others say that cocktails are too strong and complex to pair with food, and are best enjoyed separately. Where do you stand on this?
I am not completely against pairing cocktails with dinner because everyone has different tastes, but I personally do not. I think a good meal should be enjoyed with a glass of wine or beer. Both drinks can be complex, which depending on the dish, can really enhance the flavors and create a wonderful meal.

What’s one cocktail trend that you think is too overdone?
I think the Moscow Mule has had its day and it’s time to move on from it.

How about one that you feel deserves more attention?

I think the Negroni is a great, complex-flavored drink that more people should be trying. It is a great drink to
have before dinner to really open up the palate.

How is being a restaurant bartender different from being behind the bar at a nightclub?
Being a bartender in a restaurant gives me a chance to network with people and build a relationship that can sometimes go on for many years. I have really met some great people being in this industry. Years ago I used to bartend in a nightclub atmosphere. That is more or less just flinging drinks out as fast as one can – not really interacting with people on a personal level.

308 County Road Barrington


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