It sounds like a cliché, but Joe Campanale’s wine revelation happened while studying abroad in Florence during his college years at NYU. But with professors like wine author Ian D’Agata and frequent vineyard visits within the Chianti region on weekends, Campanale knew this was more than just a semester-long requirement—it would become his career.
After returning home to his native New York, he landed a job with Italian Wine Merchants, which snowballed into a sommelier position at Babbo in the West Village, followed by opportunities to open Dell’anima, L’Artusi and Anfora nearby. Campanale’s ascent into Manhattan’s wine world was swift and successful, as he managed beverage programs for a roster of notable Italian restaurants within the span of just five years. While it seemed like he was well on his way to taking over the West Village’s Italian dining scene, in 2016, he left it all behind.
Not long after, in 2017, Campanale joined forces with former L’Artusi chef Erin Shambura to open Fausto, a Brooklyn neighborhood restaurant with, unsurprisingly, an equally strong focus on both food and wine. A Prospect Heights resident himself, Campanale’s vision is heavily influenced by what he as a local would want in a restaurant. That is, handmade pastas, a thoughtfully-curated wine list and a warm, intimate feel.
So what does Campanale do when he’s not obsessing over his list of 150 wines at Fausto? Here, he tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to share his childhood love of Coke and cherries, a fish sauce cocktail experiment that ended up being a hit, and the best meal he’s ever had.—Tatiana Bautista
Owner/wine director of Fausto, owner of LaLou (coming soon), partner at Celestine, podcast host of “In the Drink,” founder of Annona Wine and author of an upcoming book on Italian wine (Fall 2020 by Clarkson Potter, stay tuned!).
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Stefano Papetti Ceroni.
Best thing you ever drank:
Soldera Brunello ’81 at the end of a road trip with my good friends Alex Zink (of D.C.’s The Dabney) and Chiara Pepe (of Emidio Pepe). We had just come back from visiting the late Gianfranco Soldera and found this bottle at a great wine bar in Rome called Il Goccetto. For me it was just as much about how extraordinary the bottle was, as it was about sharing it with close friends and capping off this incredible experience that we all shared together.
Worst thing you ever drank:
As a kid I used to drink Coke with maraschino cherries and cherry syrup. I still can’t believe I used to do that!
First time you ever got drunk:
Definitely studying abroad in Madrid between my freshman and sophomore years at NYU. I try not to relive it so will spare you the description—not pretty. To this day, I try to avoid getting drunk.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Jay-Z’s The Blueprint.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
My girlfriend tells me that my weirdest hobby is watching car reviews on YouTube. It’s totally normal. I don’t know what she’s talking about.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
How hard it is to be the managing partner of a restaurant. Sometimes it feels like I’m on an island. Very few people understand how hard it is to be the face of the restaurant and also the one who is responsible for keeping everyone happy and motivated, whether it be the team on the ground or the restaurant’s investors. If I knew how this felt earlier, I probably would have been more understanding of my former business partner who was in the same role that I’m in now. Shout out to August Cardona for making it look easy.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
When I opened Fausto, I had this seemingly off-the-wall idea to add Colatura, an Italian fish sauce made from anchovies on the Amalfi Coast, to our Bloody Marys for brunch. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a huge success.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Spending time with my girlfriend Ilyssa and our rescue pitbull Susu. Also, I love to run and just finished my first ultra-marathon on Bear Mountain.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
I always struggle with the request to add ice to a well-made wine and can’t bring myself to do it. Offering ice on the side is the closest I can get.
Your favorite bar, and why:
Easy—Bar Isola in Milan. One part wine bar, one part wine shop, and you can point to any bottle on the shelf and the staff will open it for you and pour you a glass. Plus, they offer complimentary bar snacks that are super simple, seasonal and perfect to nosh on while you’re enjoying your wine. I could spend my whole trip there.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
If I had to pinpoint the absolute best meal I’ve ever had, it would probably be lunch at Lo Scoglio in a small town on the Amalfi coast with my girlfriend a few years back. After landing at the Rome airport and booking a pretty fancy sedan, the local Hertz rep gave us a “similar model” which turned out to be a legit minivan. Feeling dejected, we drove from Rome to the Amalfi coast, determined to find Lo Scoglio. A few hours later, in our minivan, we managed to make it to Lo Scoglio on some of the world’s most beautifully treacherous roads. The restaurant is on a dock overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea surrounded by some of the cleanest, bluest water. The food is outstanding; it’s mostly local fish and vegetables they grow themselves or harvest locally. Plus, the restaurant is run by one extended family. Needless to say, it was worth every effort to get there—so much so that we want to go back every year.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
Though I have a habit of ordering the weirdest, wild-card dish on a restaurant menu, at a cocktail bar, I tend to order what the bar is best known for. For example, if I go to Amor y Amargo, I always order something amaro-based. At Clover Club, I’m going to order one of their specialty cocktails. At Long Island Bar, I’m definitely drinking something old-school like a Boulevardier or a Gimlet. For me, everything at NoMad Bar is fair game.
When I’m at The Four Horsemen or Ten Bells, two of my favorite wine bars close to home, I look for something that I’ve never heard of. I feel like the wine bar experience is a way for me to expand my repertoire and take more risks. I usually like to ask the person taking care of me what they’re into right now, or what’s drinking well, since the best wine bars taste their staff on their wines regularly and employ people with stellar palettes.
In a dive bar?
Whiskey on the rocks. Michter’s if I’m lucky.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
Don’t get hungover? I make sure to stay super hydrated when I’m going after it. The rare times that I’m not feeling my best the next morning, a light run and some coconut water usually does the trick. Russ & Daughters if it’s an emergency.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
The last text message you sent:
“Susu did #1s and #2s.”