Marcello's La Sirena In West Palm Beach (And Its More Than 1,000 Varieties of Wine) Earns Wine Spectator's Elite Grand Award
When Marcello Fiorentino came on board at Italian eatery La Sirena in 1996, business was awful.
His father, who'd opened the West Palm Beach restaurant with his wife more than a decade prior, had passed away in '94. The restaurant wasn't doing very well anymore. And its wine program was limited to about 25 wines.
"We had to regroup," Fiorentino said. "Part of our thing was to enhance our wine program, which consisted of just a few whites and a few reds."
Today, the wine list at Marcello's La Sirena includes more than 1,000 varieties, earning the restaurant Wine Spectator's most prestigious distinction, the Grand Award.
La Sirena was one of eight restaurants in 2015 to join 73 others that have reached Grand Award status. The Restaurant Awards Program winners are featured in Wine Spectator's Aug. 31 issue.
"This is about the biggest accomplishment that we've had in all our years of business here," said Fiorentino, noting the restaurant has been no stranger to recognition from Zagat, Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and more.
Wine Spectator's website described its award winner's path to success: "At Marcello's La Sirena in West Palm Beach, Fla., owners Marcello and Diane Fiorentino built one of the richest collections of Tuscan wines in the United States, traveling to Italy to meet winemakers and find new gems."
When he and his wife vacation in Italy and search for news wines, it's not only about the wine itself, Fiorentino explained. It's about their relationship with it.
"Our consideration is first and foremost if there's some sort of personal connection with a winery, a vineyard," said Fiorentino, whose favorites include Fontodi and Capannelle in central Italy.
When Marcello's La Sirena first began building its robust wine program, a friend of the owners suggested they submit their wine list to Wine Spectator. They quickly earned the first-level Award of Excellence.
"I was out of my mind happy to get the Award of Excellence," Fiorentino recalled.
In 2003, La Sirena was upgraded to the second-level Best of Award of Excellence.
"We really thought that was kind of it forever," Fiorentino said. "The Grand Award is very difficult to get, but we kept growing our wine list."
But in May, Wine Spectator reached out to La Sirena to let the restaurant know it was in the running for the Grand Award, its highest level of recognition. Then the magazine made an on-site inspection of the restaurant for judging.
"A couple of weeks after that, Marvin Shanken, the [publisher], sent us a letter saying we were approved," Fiorentino said.
Since then, La Sirena has added another 200 wines to its list, according to Fiorentino.
Interestingly enough, the restaurant does not have a liquor license to serve spirits and whip up cocktails. Fiorentino said that's not what La Sirena tries to do.
"We believe that, if you're going to have good food, you don't want, like, a gin and tonic. You want a nice glass of wine," he said. "I don't think alcohol enhances the food at all. I think a dining experience is food and wine."
La Sirena, which closes for the summer, will be reopening for its 30th season on Sept. 9.
"It gives us another push to say, 'Let's go get 'em,'" Fiorentino said. "We really need to make sure we represent the award well."
Find Marcello's La Sirena's full wine list online here.
Marcello's La Sirena; 6316 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach