This week's cafe review takes a look at Osteria Mazzantini, a new-ish Italian restaurant from Mockingbird Bistro's John Sheely. I first went there on opening night, and though I enjoyed the food, I found myself most impressed by the creative and interesting wine list and the young sommelier who had written it for her first real job as wine guru of an upscale restaurant.
When I visited to review the restaurant, I found the food at Osteria Mazzantini had improved and that the wine list was as wonderful as ever. Sommelier Samantha Porter, still in her early 20s, has crafted a wine list that reads like a book. The descriptions of the wine-by-the-glass options and different varietals are so interesting that I always keep reading, even after I already know what I want.
"I just wanted to make something approachable," Porter says. "I wanted it to be thought out, not like I just put a bunch of wines on a piece of paper. If John was going to give me the opportunity to create my own wine list, I wanted to own it. I want people to fall in love with it like I did."
The wine list, available as a download from the Osteria Mazzantini website, is 32 pages long and worth every sheet of paper. It's a very personal list, and one in which Porter continues to invest a lot of time and effort.
"I have too much pride in what I do to sell out to a distributor who will pay for me to travel in exchange for putting their wines on my menu," she says. "I have 15 to 20 people that I buy wine from instead of one big distributor. It takes me longer to order and do things, but it's all my own, and I don't have to sell out to anyone."
This devotion to quality has allowed Porter to bring in wines that are now being distributed in Texas for the first time, including some that she helped make.
The story continues on the next page.