The Accidental Wine Seller
Call him the “Accidental Wine Seller.” When Anthony Angrisani started stocking shelves working part-time for his family at La Cantina Wines on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx’s Little Italy, he was a first-year college student studying Business and dreaming of becoming a YouTube sensation. “I knew very little about wine at that time,” he says, “but I knew if the business were to grow, I would have to learn my product.” Thus, began a self-taught journey, aided by salespeople, winemakers and customers themselves that has transformed La Cantina into a specialty wine store where you can find the best wines from around the country and the world—all while remaining within your budget.
“Our customers bring their knowledge and taste and we learn from them,” Anthony tells me on this somewhat quiet Monday afternoon. “Others come in with a certain wine in mind that we may not stock. I try to find out what it is they like about the wine they are seeking and see if I can suggest one we do.” As if on cue, a customer comes in looking for an “Italian white, maybe a Sauvignon…” Anthony quickly points out a “delicious wine from Piemonte; it combines crispy tartness with a pleasant acidity. It’s 70 percent Cortese…” Before he finishes, this gentleman says, “You know I trust you. I’ll take it.”
The pattern is followed by a few more customers who enter while Anthony and I enjoy some goat cheese and soppressata and sip an Aglianico del Vulture Bisceglia. Everyone expresses confidence in Anthony’s suggestions. “Developing trust between my customers and me is what we value most. My greatest satisfaction is when any of our customers come back and tell us how much they have enjoyed a wine we have recommended. We care about our customers and want to ensure they have the best wine-buying experience possible which is why we offer a full, money-back guarantee on any wine we sell. It’s the right thing to do.”
Another customer finishes her purchase and produces a La Cantina Loyalty Card. Anthony enters the price and code on the back of the card. When the card is completed, she will be able to select a wine equal in price to the average price of the previously purchased bottles or select a more expensive wine and discount that average. “It works out well,” Anthony says. “It gives our everyday customer a chance to enjoy the 10 percent discount that someone gets when buying a case. We also keep the codes so that if you’ve forgotten a wine you liked, we can look it up and point you in the right direction.”
While the store has an impressive array of Italian wines, “we are reflective of the neighborhood,” walk a little farther back and wines from France, South America, South Africa, California, and New York line the shelves. Anthony picks up a Traminette from the Finger Lakes that he calls a gem, “It’s my current favorite.” My eye wanders to a shelf that used to house a smoky Chilean Cabernet, no longer available, recommended to me by Alex (Lelcaj), one of La Cantina’s mainstay clerks. “I don’t know where I would be without Alex,” he says. “Alex arrived and has taught me so much about the business.” I have to agree. I think about how many times I have relied on Alex to introduce me to a new wine and how he has yet to disappoint me.
I ask Anthony about his mission. “It’s simple,” he says. “I want to help you get the best stuff. We are always looking for unique wines that offer quality and value. We search for the ‘gems’ that you can’t find everywhere else.”
La Cantina Wine & Liquor
2355 Arthur Avenue, Bronx NY
Wine Tastings every Saturday.