By Carly DeFilippo
Some of us are still living at home with our parents at age 23. Joe Campanale was opening his first restaurant.
Named one of Forbe’s “30 Under 30: Food and Wine“, Campanale’s story, as shared with ICE Culinary Management students, is one of enviable success. Today, he is a Partner at Epicurean Management Company (EMCo.), serving as Executive Beverage Director for four successful Manhattan restaurants. But before he became one of the youngest powerhouses in New York City’s restaurant scene, Campanale was just a college student with a passionate interest in food and wine.
Growing up in Queens, Campanale became interested in food by cooking for his mother. He attended NYU as an undergraduate, with the goal of studying law, but found himself writing all his academic papers about food. After enrolling in a wide range of elective Food Studies courses, he managed to find an internship at Italian Wine Merchants. There, he quickly discerned that working in beverages provided customer interaction that is rarely allowed a chef.
Interested in pursuing futher wine training, Campanale secured a position at the International Wine Center, which allowed him to take the center’s diploma program for free. He also returned to NYU, where he completed a Masters in Food Studies and met Stephen Zagor, current Dean of Management Programs at ICE. While he enjoyed his studies, Campanale says he would have benefitted from a more business-focused curriculum, such as the Culinary Management program overseen by Zagor.
Despite the lack of practical training in his Master’s program, Campanale soon found himself managing a restaurant. Shortly after securing his first job as a sommelier at Babbo, he was approached by former Italian Wine Merchants colleague August Cardona. Cardona offered him “sweat equity” in a restaurant, an unusual – and incredible – opportunity for a financially strapped student. Campanale moved into an apartment above what would become dell’anima‘s West Village location and “lived the restaurant” from there on out.
The Italian Wine Merchants connection proved integral to dell’anima’s success, as Campanale and Cardona discovered their Executive Chef, Gabe Thompson, through another of the shop’s employees. (Today, that employee is Katherine Thompson, wife to Gabe and Executive Pastry Chef at EMCo.) The restaurant fared well, despite a general lack of press coverage, and soon Campanale and Cardona were on to their next venture.
L’Artusi opened in the midst of the financial crisis and received harsh reviews in three major publications. Against the odds, the business proved successful, teaching Campanale that bad reviews may hurt your pride, but they don’t always affect your profits. With the addition of Anfora and L’Apicio – which has happily received excellent reviews – Campanale’s career has become that of a true “21st century restauranteur”, building upon his success with multiple restaurants.
As EMCo.’s management team has grown, Campanale has been able to return to his roots and focus primarily on wine and beverages. Whether featuring Italy’s indigenous grape varietals at dell’anima, highlighting bottles by region at L’Artusi or researching artisanal cocktails for l’Apicio, his thoughtful beverage lists feature not only exceptional producers, but also a personal point of view.
Today, Campanale has expanded his professional projects to a radio show on Heritage Radio Network and recreational wine and cocktail classes at ICE. Moreover, at EmCo., he has developed company-wide wine trainings and paid “cellar hand” internships, a gracious nod to his own meager beginnings in the business and an exceptional opportunity for future beverage professionals.