In the increasingly over-saturated world of celebrity chefs and restaurateurs, it is becoming harder and harder to make a splash. At any given time of the day, there are at least three cooking shows on TV, another three competitive culinary challenges to choose from, and blog after blog fills RSS feeds with the latest and greatest food and wine…it all seems to blur after a while and one face and name easily replaces another. Unless your name is Jacopo Falleni.
As a pioneer in a sector that has been largely over-explored, this young Italian culinary star with a pleasant demeanor and down-to-earth attitude is breaking the mold and bringing a freshness to the culinary media scene that we thought was no longer possible by introducing his passion for mixology to a public audience via several simultaneous innovative and entertaining avenues.
His inventiveness is a testament to his heritage: as a native of Florence, Jacopo comes from a long history of inventors, artists, and artisans (Leonardo da Vinci, for starters). His path began in his mid-teens, working in the food and wine industry in Italy. At the ripe age of 20, he opened his first food business, Il Gelatone, studying and serving high-quality gelato to New York City. After returning to Italy and studying for a degree at AIBES (Associazione Italiana Barman e Sostenitori), the now sommelier/mixologist decided to settle in the States, opening Café Firenze and Firenze Osteria in California with best friend and celebrity chef, Fabio Viviani, who he recently wrote a cookbook with. He has also launched an entertaining and informative website, jacopofalleni.com, that features a Bar Therapy video series in which he shares his drink-mixing skills with any and all interested.
Our love of all quality things Italian led us to sit down with the accomplished celebrity mixologist for an inside view into his life, work, and Italian roots.
SI: Why did you choose mixology to focus on instead of wine, as do so many graduates of AIBES?
Jacopo: I am actually a certified sommelier, but there is a certain beauty in mixology that is open to those with an artistic ingenuity. This profession allows me to express myself through innovation and creation. As a sommelier, you deliver someone else’s product with someone else’s vision, matching the best of the kitchen- and wine-world as the middleman. As a mixology, you invent your own product from your own passions and interests.
SI: How are cocktails in Italy different than cocktails in the United States?
Jacopo: Cocktails in Italy are actually very high quality, especially because those who bar tend choose to do so as a life-long profession. However, it is important to remember that in Italy, restaurants do not traditionally serve cocktails – you have to go to a bar. I remember being pleasantly surprised when I saw the variety of drinks offered in restaurants in the United States. In fact, in my restaurants, I take this American availability of superb cocktails and marry it with the Italian love for pairing food and drink. Actually, I develop a new cocktail every week to serve in our restaurant along with our Mediterranean-inspired food.
SI: What are the top two places in Italy that you would recommend to foreign Italian travelers?
Jacopo: Definitely San Gimignano. It’s authentic beauty is like being in another world. For the second, I would say Porto Venere, which is a perfect expression of an Italian beach town and not as crowded as some of the beaches near the Cinque Terre.
SI: Given that you are expertly creative in making drinks, can you make me one on the spot? Let’s say a Florentine, in honor of your hometown.
Jacopo: I don’t even need to think about that one. I would make a spin-off of a Negroni, Florence’s traditional cocktail. I would put Campari, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, Prosecco and St. Germain. For a garnish, I’d place a melon carved into the Fleur-de-Lis, which is the symbol of Florence. I always keep a melon on hand to carve garnishes from – it is actually a very workable material!
We enjoyed hearing Jacopo’s creative Italian ideas so much that this blog is the first of a series in which Jacopo’s Italian-inspired Bar Therapy drinks and their stories will be featured monthly on the Select Italy website. Stay tuned for more fun and interesting Italian insights and tasty cocktails!