It was such a pleasure weekend brunching it at Vines – there were at least three people who I met that day that I wanted to get to know better, and share with readers. The first (you’ll have to guess at the other two) is the Restaurant and Bar Manager Giovanni P. Corvino.
Of course, being a good manager, Giovanni reached out to me after the brunch and he gently reminded me that he was ready for his close-up. So here goes:
EB: When you came over to our table, incredibly poised and professional for someone in his early 30s, you had us at Hello Mr. and Mrs. Bushman. Come to find that you are willing, and able, to be as familiar as your guests demand or as professional. Impressive. So one of my first questions is about you: Tell readers about yourself, and what you think your qualities are as a manager.
GC: Well, I grew up in the business and have had a love of food and hospitality ingrained in me at a young age. I spent a lot of time in my family’s restaurant and in the kitchen with my grandparents. Our family used any reason to have a get together with family and friends. As I got older I wanted to host parties like my family had growing up. So I would spend a couple days prepping and then invite all my friends over and put on a big feast and have some good wine and swap stories.
Growing up in the business I had a great mentor, my grandfather. He taught me that if you want your staff to respect you have to respect them, and earn their trust. I am big on communication through open dialogue. It is important to understand where your guests and employees are coming from in order to empathize with them. Additionally, I am big on leading by example and holding myself to a higher standard than my employees. By working in the trenches your employees will realize that they have the support they need, and it has been my experience that they will go the extra mile for you.
EB: You’ve got a great spot here with the patio, bar, buffet…we got into discussing some grand plans for events right away! Not going to divulge the ideas we shared just yet, lest someone runs with them first, but what is your vision for the bar and restaurant?
GC: My vision of the restaurant is for it to become one of the premier destinations in the Santa Clarita Valley, both for the local residents and our hotel guests. Chef Rolf does an amazing job with the quality and presentation of the food. I have inherited a great staff with a great understanding of the area and our long time regulars. By coming on board here at Vines I really want to recapture the local market and make Vines the place to be for a night out on the town.
EB: You grew up in Carlsbad and went to college in Santa Barbara. Now tell us about your life here – is it very different? How long have you been working in Santa Clarita? What do you like about our fair city?
GC: I have been around the Santa Clarita Valley my whole life because a number of my cousins grew up here, and when I was young I would spend a lot of time with them. I even lived here for about six months as my girlfriend and I transitioned from Santa Barbara to Glendale, where I presently reside. I have been working here for the past two months, and enjoy the commute, especially since I go against the flow of traffic.
I really enjoy the family environment that exists here in Santa Clarita. The numerous parks everywhere, athletics and plenty of attractions to stay busy is a definite perk. I am a big roller coaster fan so it is always nice to be so close to Magic Mountain. It has been great to see this town continue to grow over the years, and I am looking forward to what the future holds for the area.
EB: Please tell readers what you told me about your experience working in Santa Barbara before coming to Santa Clarita.
GC: I moved to Santa Barbara right out of high school and enrolled in UC Santa Barbara, a beautiful campus in a stunning town. When I started school I still had the notion of possibly following in my grandfather’s footsteps and work in the back of the house.
I spent three years in the kitchens, and gained an immense amount of experience cooking for groups as small as 6 people to as large as 6,000. I realized that as much as I loved cooking it was not for me.
I then spent a couple of years as a bartender/bouncer for a popular nightclub and really enjoyed my time in the nightlife but – was looking for something more refined. That is when I was recruited by Tre Lune Ristorante as they were getting ready to open and had the opportunity to get in from the ground up on a new restaurant.
This allowed me the chance to apply my cocktail knowledge and creativity in creating a customized cocktail list, and also gave me the opportunity to learn about wines, especially Italian wines. Which, Amarone and Barolo! Need I say more?
After Tre Lune I was recruited by Stella Mare’s restaurant, which is a quaint French provincial restaurant on the border of Santa Barbara and Montecito. It was here I was introduced to the amazing wines of Santa Barbara County; Brewer Clifton, Sea Smoke, Longoria etc., as well as other great wines produced in California; Caymus, Chateau Montelena, Justin etc.
I bounced between Stella’s, and doing some consulting work for my friend Dario Furlati and his amazing restaurant Ca’ Dario in Santa Barbara, when the economy went south. I found myself laid off and decided to finish off my Bachelor’s degree and head back down to Los Angeles so I could help take care of my grandparents. It was very hard to say goodbye to my beautiful home and friends of the last 16 years but I know I will end up back there someday.
EB: How much say do you have in the menus – both for the bar and restaurant? And how do you establish what is featured?
GC: Our Chef is the primary orchestrator of our menu selections, but we work together with the Sous Chefs and collaborate on ideas that we would like to see on the menu.
When we do pairing menus or have a special occasion the Chef looks to me for dish ideas that would go well with our featured items – whether it be wine, spirits or just a special occasion meal. When deciding on a dish we try and pick items that we can produce using local ingredients to keep that sense of community involvement and quality products. Once we have decided on a dish, we prepare and sample it and make sure that what we created is how we envisioned it. It is a very fun and enjoyable part of the job, plus it is a chance to sample some of Chef’s better ideas.