“We have the best selection of large format bottles (at Teatro) as I call myself a bon vivant, which is about sharing and enjoying the finer things in life – but not by yourself,” says Dario Berloni, President of Teatro Group.

“And if you have so many friends like I have, you need a big bottle,” he adds smiling.

Born and raised in Pesaro, on Italy’s Adriatic Coast, Berloni moved to Canada hoping to follow in his businessman father’s footsteps, studying business administration and finance at university in Montreal. He was hired in Calgary in 1982, and seven years later bought the Teatro building. After extensive refurbishments, the restaurant opened in 1993.

“I was a minority partner in a group of restaurants that included Mescalero, Divino, River Café, and Teatro, and eventually the partnership went their way and I ended up being the sole owner of Teatro,” he explains.

Now 25 years later, Teatro is still strong even in Calgary’s yo-yo economy, and the group has grown to seven restaurants.

“We have an invested interest, and we will do whatever is best,” Berloni says. “The restaurant was best for the building and the building was the best for the restaurant. It’s hard to separate it, because buildings like this, which is a provincial historic resource, do have higher operating costs. The maintenance here is (and he makes a grand gesture) …cumbersome.”

“We went through a time of exuberance,” he adds. “There was a time that Calgary was really the best place in the country to do business, and it’s not anymore. I wish for someone to pay attention to that because some is indeed borne of world events, but some is homemade.”

Teatro was the outright winner of Culinaire’s Best Wine List in Alberta, as well as the Most Comprehensive Wine List and Best Vertical Selection.

Currently the very impressive cellar has close to 10,000 bottles, although when buying en primeur (wine futures), it has been as high as 16,000.

“By buying at the best price we can assure the trust of our clients,” says Berloni. “Good taste has no frontiers. That’s why we have wines not only from Italy but from everywhere in the world, and we’re trying to bring to our clients the balance between good value and quality, and perfect cellaring, so when you come here so you know you are getting the best possible bottle.”

So what bottle is he saving for a special occasion?

Berloni picks up the bottle of Ornellaia 2010 sitting on the table in front of us.

“I chose this for a number of reasons, but not least is that this bottle is the 25-year celebration of Ornellaia, and because this year is going to be our 25th anniversary,” he says.

“And furthermore, the Frescobaldi family, which owns Ornellaia, are my personal friends. They’re lifelong friends; I went to school with some of them so we’ve been in touch forever. And I have selected this wine for its quality and its significance to the Italian wine industry.”

Without a doubt, Ornellaia is one of Italy’s most well-respected wines. A Bordeaux-style blend of 53% cabernet sauvignon, 39% merlot, 4% cabernet franc, and 4% petit verdot, the 2010 vintage was among the latest ripening in recent years. Winemaker, Axel Heinz, describes the palate as “finesse par excellence,“ and one of the most elegant expressions of the wine.

And when will Berloni open it?

“The 25th Anniversary Edition 2010 Ornellaia, is the perfect wine for me to open in October on the 25th anniversary of this restaurant, and reflect back on the journey that Teatro has taken me on,” he says.

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