Vincenzo Marianella: Italian taste for fresh ingredients in the American cocktail bar scene

Vincenzo Marianella. Photo courtesy of V. Marianella

Vincenzo Marianella. Photo courtesy of V. Marianella

When thinking of Los Angeles, many of us would picture in their mind a beautiful sunset over the ocean, possibly to be enjoyed with a refreshing and tasty cocktail in our hand. The perfect ingredients can make a difference in the relaxing evening of our dreams, as well as they can take any cocktails to the next level.
 
This is Vincenzo Marianella’s philosophy, based on over ten years of experience in the art of “mixology.” Among other cocktail bars, in 2006 he co-founded Copa d’Oro in Santa Monica, where he also works as the head bartender.
 
After traveling the world and building upon his knowledge of the Italian, British, and Australian tradition of mixing and handcrafting cocktails, Marianella eventually moved to the U.S. and started the first market-fresh bar program in L.A. Every day, riding his inseparable motorcycle, he searches local farmers markets and organic food supermarkets to select only the finest products to create his cocktails. This allows Copa d’Oro to offer a unique, interactive experience to its customers, who can choose from premium ingredients and international flavors, from fruits to herbs and spirits, combining them in an authentic tailor-made drink.
 
Vincenzo, you have travelled a lot, studying at the Australian Bartending Academy and working at Smollensky’s in London for many years. Why did you eventually end up in L.A.?
There’s no particular reason, I just wanted to leave Italy. I like it here, mostly for the nice weather. Many of my friends have moved to London, UK, which is rainy as much as my hometown, Tolmezzo, in the province of Udine, in North-Eastern Italy. But I was looking for something different, and the American Dream has always been tempting.
 
Do you miss anything Italian? And how often do you return to your hometown?
Most of all, I miss the Italian lifestyle and our way of seeing life. I go back once a year.
 
Among others, you have worked for some time at the historical Valentino restaurant in Santa Monica, known for its impressive wine list. How did you like the experience?
It is always a pleasure and an honor to work with Piero Selvaggio, and for me it was also a lesson in business. Thanks to Valentino, I made some important connections and had the opportunity to find a job at the Michelin-starred Providence, to which I basically owe my career.   
 
You have been named L.A.’s “Best Bartender” and “Best Bar Chef” by some influential trade magazines. What makes your cocktails and Copa D’Oro different?
Cocktail recipes constantly evolve. When we opened Copa d’Oro there were very few cocktail bars and restaurants using fresh ingredients from the market. I can only recall two of such bars, Seven Grand and Doheny, and both of them were started by me…
 
Back in Tolmezzo, your interest in cocktail making was matched by your passion for basketball, also thanks to your remarkable height [6’4”]. Do you still play?
No, I’m too old for that, so I’ve switched to something less intense: Krav Maga [combat fitness]!

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