Lettuce Life: Meet the Wine Team from RPM Restaurants
Wine tips, favorite dishes and more from a stellar team
Since 2022, RPM Restaurants’ Wine Director Joseph Lapi has been at the helm of an award-winning and ever-expanding wine team. The restaurants have received Wine Spectator’s “Best of” Awards of Excellence across three RPM concepts including RPM Seafood, RPM Italian and RPM Steak. As the RPM brand grows, so does the team, now made up of 14 wine experts around the country.
Innovation is at the heart of the RPM wine team, as they are constantly coming up with new ways to educate and interact with guests from curating unique wine lists, to hosting monthly wine dinners with world class winemakers and introducing interactive wine experiences like the Sommelier Experience.
Now without further ado, we’re here to introduce you to the talented team behind the wine pairings. Learn more about their favorite menu picks, pairings and so much more.
Meet Joseph Lapi, Wine Director of RPM Restaurants
In your own words, what makes your team unique?
Our sommelier team is truly exceptional, offering a distinctive combination of expertise, passion, and creativity. What distinguishes our team is not only our knowledge of wines from around the world but, more importantly, our capacity to establish personal connections with people. Our team’s aim is to craft lasting, memorable moments for our guests. We also have an unwavering commitment to learning that allows us to serve as mentors to our staff, keeping us at the forefront of emerging trends and ensuring that each interaction is a journey into the world of wine. Most importantly, we have a genuine passion for our craft, and we aspire to provide a warm and hospitable experience to anyone seeking our guidance.
Meet Brennan Sopko, Wine Director at RPM Steak
When dining at RPM Steak, what is a bottle you’d recommend to a table ordering different cuts of steak that is also a crowd pleaser?
While being able to pair to specifics is fun, it is ultimately very important to have versatility. I think that the most versatile wines are typically from the old world, as they have more delicate palates and nuance A favorite to recommend is Lottorai, Pinot Noir, 2022, from the Sonoma Coast. This wine offers immediate enjoyment without sacrificing complexity and depth throughout the meal, balancing finesse and richness. Finding enjoyment in Littorai wines doesn’t require drinkers to know the illustrious resume of its proprietor; Ted Lemon, but it surely doesn’t subtract from the experience when you know how influential Ted has been on California winemaking.
What is your favorite dish at RPM Steak?
My favorite dish at RPM Steak is the Ora King Salmon. For a seafood dish to be a standout at a steak house it must be delicious, and without fail this preparation of beautifully fresh salmon never disappoints.
Meet Nick Schulman, Wine Director at RPM Italian – D.C.
What are you most excited about?
So many things to be excited about! Seeing our team grow with the RPM Italian – Las Vegas opening, hosting epic Wine Dinners in DC with my “partners in wine” Covin Davis and Richard Hanauer, and of course finally opening that 3.78-Liter bottle of 1967 Bertelleti Spanna (Nebbiolo) for a by-the-glass special.
What is the Italian wine people should know?
It took me a while to fully appreciate but as of now, I have fallen madly in love with the wines of Etna in Sicily. Talk about adventurous wine-making, Etna is a massive volcano that erupts frequently, constantly changing the landscape. Because of the unique volcanic soils, the vines have evaded that wretched root-louse known as Phylloxera that wiped out almost all European vineyards in the early 1900s benefitting Etna with an abundance of extremely old vineyards. There are so many great examples off the list. One of my favorites is Vini Franchetti’s “Sciaranuova” (or “new lava flow”) , which is made with the native Nerello Mascalese grape and entices the palate with notes of fresh red cherries, star anise, and just the most elegant texture reminiscent of top Burgundies I have had.
Meet John Slatter, Wine Director at RPM Italian – Chicago
As we enter the second half of the year, what’s motivating you?
I’m excited for the busy holiday season and to serve guests some big red wines!
What wines should people try at their next RPM Italian visit?
I recommend white wines from Campania, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino specifically, medium bodied, mineral-driven wines, with great freshness and salinity from the coastal influence, great with seafood!
What is your favorite dish on the menu at RPM Italian?
Chicken Parmesan! Especially when served with Sangiovese wines from Tuscany, Chianti Classico or Brunello di Montalcino due to their robust structure and sweet tomato notes!
Meet Allison Curatolo, Wine Director for RPM Italian – Las Vegas
With the recent opening of RPM Italian – Las Vegas, what are you looking forward to?
Its been exciting to participate in the growth of the RPM brand into the Las Vegas market. Las Vegas has an energy and pulse that is unique from Chicago and D.C., from high rollers to destination diners.
What’s an Italian wine people aren’t drinking enough of?
It is no secret that sommeliers (and the wine industry in general) have an obsession with sparkling wines. Bubbles pair with nearly every occasion worth celebrating, and in my book that includes the celebration of putting on pants and getting out of the house. Italy’s greatest sparkling wine style, Franciacorta, often plays second fiddle to the iconic Champagne region in France, though the wines are treated with similar techniques, grape varieties, and aging practices. Ca’ del Bosco, a name synonymous with Franciacorta production in northern Italy, calls their top bottling, “Cuvée Annamaria Clementi.” This wine is one of my favorite sparkling wines, Italian or otherwise. Named for a mother who bankrolled the ambitions of her son, this wine is a beautiful homage to family, and paving new paths in the world of fine wines. As the RPM brand begins paving a path out west with the opening of RPM Italian – Las Vegas, it seems a fitting celebration selection. And, we all put pants on today, so I think we deserve it.
Meet Lindsey Becker Schwartz, Wine Director for RPM Seafood, RPM Events and Pizzeria Portofino
What is the best unexpected bottle to try with seafood?
At the risk of being blasphemous, the answer I tell guests all the time is: “Whatever you like to drink!” Are there technical “right” and “wrong” wines to drink with seafood? According to some people, yes. But I think if you love what you’re drinking (even if it’s…gasp, a big bold red!), and you like what you’re eating (even if it’s oysters with that big bold red), you’re going to have a great time. And isn’t that the whole point of going out to dinner?