When life hands you lemons – or the Pandemic closes your hotel – make lemonade. NOT. The ever creative and entrepreneurial owners of our favorite Milanese B&B, Il Girasole Milano, Nicola and Matteo Negruzzi understood that people around the world were feeling crappy. Hmmm…. In case you didn’t know, the name of their wine that grew out of the Pandemic is a vulgar Italian idiomatic expression – essentially meaning “fuck off” or “up your butt.” It is also a wine that sold rapidly during the two plus years that Covid had as all feeling – well – gulp – fucked and continues to sell today.
Nicola Negruzzi told me the story –
It was the end of November, 2020 and they got a call from a very good friend who was having a very bad year. A disabled child, the pandemic, Milan closed up tight and – well you went through it and you understand. At the end of the call, she said to Nicola, “you don’t know how many vaffanculos I have to say a day.” To make her laugh, Nicola designed a label for a sparkling Trebbiano wine from Abruzzo. He took a picture, sent it to her and said, “Come here, we drink this wine and say vaffanculo together.” It was just a joke – join the rest of us and raise a glass while screaming “vaffanculo!” Their friend not only laughed, she ordered a case. Nicola and Matteo realized they might be on to something that could save their souls. They asked a friend to design a professional label, ordered a bunch of wine from a vineyard in Abruzzo, attached wooden baskets to their bicycles and started creating an old fashioned huckster promotional buzz. They pedaled around Milan looking for groups of masked up, glum looking people. Imagine the surprise and cheers when two men carrying bottles of Vaffanculo Wine, stopped and offered glasses accompanied by the very cheerful, but vulgar, toast. The wine took off like rockets. The timing, creativity and energy of the brothers is a marketing case study.
Taking the project even further, they got the permits to turn their empty hotel into a bar open just for apertivo. Matteo took mixology courses and started creating signature drinks. Together they created a menu of interesting stuzzichini, canapès.
They papered the neighborhood with fliers announcing the opening of “The Garden.” I was shocked when we came to the B&B to see their old parking lot festooned with trees and shrubs in enormous pots. They created spatial social distancing islands of tables surrounded by plants.
From 5:30 PM until 10:00 PM locals visit the Garden to snack, gossip and drink. The featured wine – Vaffanculo. Imagine someone coming to the bar for the first time hearing customers shout, “Matteo, Vaffanculo per due.”
Yes, I did. You know I did. I bought a case and shipped it home to Pontelandolfo.
Here is some exciting Midge News! I was a featured guest on the theatre podcast, OnStage, OffStage. Interviewed by George Sapio, I had a great time. Actually, when I heard it for the first time, I cried. I sounded like a real writer! Who knew that my pandemic lemonade would be getting a book and five plays published! Listen to the podcast and hear all about it.