Ciao A Tutti!
My name is Pepe Fundora and I am a Level 1 Sommelier. This is going to be one of my longest posts due to the history behind what I do what I now love. I have worked in the restaurant business my entire life. I remember my childhood eating Spumoni in the kitchen or office at my parents first restaurant together, Avanti’s Pescevino. When Casa Nuova opened in 1998, my parents started to show me what to have a great work ethic was. From starting as a dishwasher to slowly moving up the ranks of busboy, front waiter, back waiter, and bartender.
I was working all throughout high school and college with my parents teaching me what proper service, hospitality, and being a hard worker was all about. After I graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with an Electrical Engineering degree, I went to go work at an engineering company. This was because at the time I knew what hard work and sacrifice was, but didn’t necessarily want to do that in the restaurant business.
While working at the engineering company, I still came and helped out family at the restaurant. After being laid off in January 2013, I started working at the restaurant full time to try and figure out life. Slowly I was loving the restaurant business again. The satisfaction of having people come in and creating a warm, cozy feeling that you are coming home to family and having a great meal.
Starting to learn the inter workings of cooking and service only intensified that feeling and it was as if the formula that was in front of me was coming together. It was like a drug that I couldn’t resist or say no. Part of that formula was the wine. The experience of wine with food, ambiance, and service is an experience to be had. This is where my engineering aspect kicked into overdrive and the passion of learning about wine and service just CLICKED.
To learn about wine and the story that it entails reminds me of my family’s story and that there are MANY wineries in the world that are many generations of history, culture, and personality. Becoming a sommelier was my only option that made sense. I slowly started interacting with people in the city that have had similar passion for wine. With those interactions, I was able to “nerd” out with something I had not had in a long time. It was a void that was filled and being able to talk about something that is “simple” yet complex very much spoke to the engineer in me. Breaking down and analyzing the wine scientifically and understanding the story is why I became a Sommelier.