Has the pandemic changed the size or composition of your list? Or has it impacted your buying habits?
Absolutely. Business is still challenging. I’ve slowed down [on buying]. Especially on the higher end. Trying to maintain the glass list and a few regular friendly cherry-picks, but it’s definitely cut back on our buying. We’ll start amping up and getting ready for spring and summer. Especially since we’ll have our outdoor patio, which brings more comfort to some people who prefer to dine outside only. Last summer was great. That was a lifesaver for us. We didn’t [have a patio before the pandemic]. The city gave us on-street parking. So we got a 35-seat patio that the city gave to us. But in Boston, you’re not allowed to have permanent structures. You can’t have any roof structure. There’s only barriers with umbrellas. [Last year on] November 1, we had to remove everything from the street.
There’s a lot of wines on our list that we’ve carried for 17 years [that are impacted by supply chain issues]. We could get them regularly [in the past] and now, because of the shipping…Everything’s stuck on container ships somewhere.
Besides the fact that you’re pouring 18 wines by the glass, you’re taking people to some weird places on the BTG list…Rías Baixas, Liguria, Vinho Verde, Catalonian Muscat (for whites); Basque Country, Greece, the Azores (for rosé). Do you consider that a trademark of Neptune?
That’s part of the experience. We pride ourselves in taking people to a different level, you know. Rather than seeing the basics on the list. Most of the wines are geared towards seafood. We’re 95% seafood; I like to reflect that on the wine list as well. The majority of the wines are from coastal areas. Sea-kissed wines with elements of the sea that tie in naturally with seafood. It’s been a challenge, but it’s fun. Keeps it in the box for us, concept-wise. We’re looking for off-the-beaten-track or new, up-and-coming regions. What’s the next best thing, the next best region? Generally, you get a better price point. It’s almost a reward to adventurous wine drinkers. Which makes it more fun too. That excites them and they’re apt to come back more because they’re trying things they like, and they’re not paying as much, and they’re learning something at the same time.
Have you noticed a change in the dynamic between the guest and the restaurant? Have people been nicer? Meaner? Better tippers?
I think [it had shifted] much more so at the beginning of COVID. It’s gotten to be more normal now. The public has gotten back to their ways. Most people are very cooperative and very friendly and understanding. There is a small percentage of people that do not understand it. I don’t know where they’re coming from. They’ve arrived. and they haven’t even heard of such a thing. So I don’t know. But the majority, especially the locals, are very cooperative. As they show up, they have their phones out with their vaccine cards on it, and their masks on. We don’t have to ask them. It’s nice to see that. And surprisingly, it’s actually more than I thought. I thought we’d have a lot more difficulty over that. It’s been a pretty smooth transition.
Corey Warren is the Tastings Editor in addition to covering the wines of the Loire, Southern France, Argentina and South Africa.
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