Know Your Sommelier: Q and A with Ivan Zanovello

When he's not driving solo along the coast, Ivan catches live jazz and funk bars across LA.

Ivan, tell us something about yourself

I am from Italy, in North Piedmont, I moved to LA in 2014 after two years in Washington DC. I started at TTK as wine director, my role changed to GM in 2017. My experience in Italy is mostly on the beverage side of many different hospitality outlets, bars, restaurants, and hotels. My experience in wine started with Luigi Ferrando, a grower in one of the most fascinating towns in the very north of Piedmont.

Where do you currently work? 

The Tasting Kitchen

How long have you been in the drinks industry?

I have been in the industry since high school, over 20 years.

What according to you are some of the most important skills for a sommelier to have?

This will depend on the kind of business a sommelier is working in, hospitality and retail are very different businesses. Wine knowledge, salesmanship, negotiation, culture. All these are important, to me the management side of the profession is often disregarded but is most important; a program that is not profitable is useless. The ability to find and offer hidden gems is very important.

What do you look for when you plan to buy wine for your business?

A value above anything. Terroir, the wine needs to represent a place. Drinkability, it needs to be good and drinkable. A grower once told me "wine is for drinking not for tasting".

Where and what you drink when not working?

Given the lack of wine bars in the US, restaurants are usually where I usually drink wine. I never drink at home, it needs to be shared with people. TTK and Terroni are my favorite wine programs. Obviously, there are many more that are great, lacking value in many cases.

Your favorite places to chill in LA?

In LA I often enjoy live music at Black Rabbit Rose in Hollywood and Jazz at the Sofitel lounge.

What are some new wines to taste right now?

Look out for the new young growers in Carema. The best wine I drank recently was Schioppettino Bressan, a rare find.

Ivan Zanovello joined The Tasting Kitchen in 2014 as Wine Director and was appointed General Manager of the restaurant in 2017. Holding the highest level of professional sommelier certification from Italy, he is passionate about delivering the best in wine, hospitality, and experience. Zanovello grew up in Saluggia, in the North of Italy, near the city of Turin. He found his passion for hospitality at a young age, helping his parents run the local café. As a teenager, he would find summer seasonal jobs in famous vacation spots throughout Venice and the Alps. 

He made his way to the U.S. as a college student studying abroad for a year in Phoenix, Arizona. Zanovello continued his studies in hospitality management at IULM, a University in Milan, Italy. During this time he developed a long-lasting professional relationship with his mentor Daniele Pozzi. Zanovello became the Bar Manager at Solativo Vinosteria, where he quickly took over the wine program and its management.

Daniele helped him understand the business behind restaurants, as well as the finer points of restaurant management. While at Solativo, he met winemaker Luigi Ferrando, who, together with his sons Roberto and Andrea Ferrando, inspired Zanovello to deepen his studies and to get to know the great and charismatic people behind the world’s greatest wines. Over the last 20 years, Zanovello has established many personal relationships with small wine producers throughout Italy and France – many of whom are found on the menu at The Tasting Kitchen.  With a focus on the concept of terroir and inspired by the quality of wines from Burgundy and Piemonte, value is important to him.

The Tasting Kitchen offers a well-rounded selection of wines at the restaurant, from approachable to best in the world. Zanovello speaks Italian, English, French, and Spanish and is in love with the city of Angels. When not at The Tasting Kitchen, he enjoys long solo drives along the coast and catching live jazz and funk bands playing across the city.

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