If you’ve never experienced dinner, lunch, or an early morning breakfast at The Florentine, you must. Located on the mezzanine level in the JW Marriott Chicago at 150 West Adams, the lush yet comfortable restaurant, with Executive Chef Zachery Walrath at the helm, offers seasonal Italian cuisine in a sophisticated, lively setting. I’ve dined at The Florentine several times and have always left satiated and with a desire to return. From bites of wood-fired thin crust pizzas to handmade pastas to fresh, organic meats and cheeses paired with memorable Italian wines, why wouldn’t I??
Thanks to an invitation to explore The Florentine’s wine program with Sommelier Alexandria Sarovich, I was able to revisit one of my favorite restaurants recently. And yes, scrumptious cuisine and delectable libations were served.
Alexandria Sarovich, Wine Director and Sommelier
I met Alexandria (Alex) during a media dinner at The Florentine last year. To be honest, I was just as impressed with this young sommelier as I was with the wines of Castello d’Albola, the featured producer, and chef-driven creativity towards the food pairings. Her gregarious manner, knowledgeable conversations about the wines presented, and comfort level with our group were admirable.
Several years ago, Alex experienced a pivotal moment in wine: a sommelier paired a particular wine with food and explained why the pairing “worked”. In Alex’s words, “the lights went on” and she knew that assisting others enjoy an unexpected wine and delicious food was her calling. Her formal wine education began. “When you have food and wine together, it’s a whole different experience,” stated Alex. I certainly can’t argue with that…
Alex assumed the roles of Wine Director in January 2017 and Sommelier in September 2015, having been Captain for a year prior. Her job entails directing a 200+ bottle wine inventory, ordering and maintaining the wine list, and tracking and analyzing pertinent data. With a Wine & Spirits Level 2 Certification, a European Wine Certification with Distinction, and a Court of Master Sommeliers Level 2 Certification, The Florentine’s wine program appears to be in good hands. Alex, currently in the Court of Master Sommeliers Level 3 program, may be someone in the wine world to watch – her career is just beginning.
The Wine Program at The Florentine: A Matter of Trust
Our conversation was clearly enhanced by pours of the fruit forward, refreshing Ceretto Langhe DOC Arneis and an exceptional example of Barollo, Ceretto Bricco Roche Brunate, Barolo DOCG. Once plates of antipasti misti (a selection of imported Italian cured meats and cheese), calamari alla griglia (grilled calamari steak, white beans, pepperonata, and gaeta olives with a sunny side up egg), and gnocchi (with braised pork neck ragu and sraciatella) were served, I was in wine lover and foodie heaven.
Alex explained that the wine program at The Florentine caters to guests with “quality and value driven, high end wines from outstanding producers”. Wines from Italy are abundant on the wine list, but selections from Champagne and New World producers in, among other areas, California, Oregon, and Washington are found. Most guests request a glass or bottle of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Chianti, and Napa Cabernets when they have wine at the bar or table. Frankly, I’m not surprised…but as I had another sip of the Barolo, I couldn’t help but hope that a guest will soon share the same enjoyment as I when they have a sip of that exceptional wine.
“We’re here to craft experiences and I want to welcome people into our home…I don’t want anyone to feel rushed.” Alexandria Sarovich, Wine Director and Sommelier, The Florentine
Alex’s mission is to allow guests, who exhibit a range of wine knowledge, the opportunity to experiment with wines they may not have considered; she was quick to add that this is done by creating a level of comfort and trust. If a guest needs guidance in choosing a wine, she encourages them to give specific examples of their favorite wines and a price point. Subsequently, Alex is able to make recommendations based on the guest’s likes (and dislikes). On a weekly basis, she conducts staff training with regards to a particular wine or region…tasting notes, food pairings, and more are considered so that they, too, are able to guide a wine lover to something quite special. An important goal is for each guest to enjoy a second glass (or bottle) of wine, but nothing makes Alex more happy than for someone to say “surprise me with a wine from your cellar”!
Tourists from around the world, local business people, conference attendees, hotel guests, and locals frequent The Florentine for its variety of wines and food. A favorite happening is Happy Hour from 4-6pm each weekday. Guests receive a complimentary pizza for the group with the purchase of a cocktail, beer, or wine. In my humble opinion, The Florentine should be your next favorite after-shopping, post-work, or pre-theatre location.
In the future, Alex hopes to add to the inventory wines that are from older vintages, selections that are “fresh, delicious and those you can’t find anywhere”. I’m looking forward to returning to The Florentine for another wine and food experience. I already trust that Sommelier Alexandria Sarovich will have my palate in mind. Rest assured, she’ll have yours, too.