Whether it is a $600 bottle of Bryant Family Cabernet or an $18 bottle of Amano Primotivo, customers have more than 3,000 bottles of wine to choose from while dining at Trattoria Strada Nova.
Rockford “Rocky” Galloway, wine enthusiast and owner of the Italian restaurant, has a keen taste for drinks off the vine. His talent comes from a great memory that allows him to remember and compare wines he tastes today to ones he tasted last year.
Galloway says his extensive experience behind a bar and his love of cooking inspired him to own a restaurant.
“As a kid in grade school, I always bought the cook books from the book club,” Galloway says. “All of my friends were buying ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’ and ‘Hardy Boys,’ and I was buying cook books.”
At Trattoria Strada Nova, Galloway is on hand to help patrons choose wine with their meal.
“We encourage people, when dining, to try new wines — anything we have. I would rather give away a little wine and have the customer leave happy than make them buy a whole bottle of something they end up not liking,” he says.
Galloway thinks everyone can be his or her own wine critic. “I don’t believe people should say what is a good wine. If you don’t like that type, then it is not good for you,” Galloway said. “If everyone had the same palate, there would only be three wines in the world.”
The wine at Trattoria comes from Bommarito Wines in St. Louis, as well as from local distributors including Paramount, Major Brands, Glazer Distribution, Corkscrew and Les Bourgeois. Local wines from Les Bourgeois include Chardonel and Collector Series Merlot.
“Wine sales make up 70 percent of total beverage sales at Trattoria,” Galloway says. “In most restaurants, this percentage is around 20 percent.”
After graduating from MU with a degree in computer science, Galloway worked at Fieldhouse, Toad’s and Garcia’s as a bartender before moving to the newly opened Trattoria Strada Nova in 1990 to work as the floor and bar manager.
In 1993, Galloway and his wife, Cheryl, bought Trattoria Strada Nova, which means “restaurant on Ninth Street” in Italian. They also own Cucina Sorella, or “sister kitchen,” located across the street from Trattoria. Cucina Sorella serves breakfast and is the center of their catering business.
Galloway’s knowledge of and interest in wine started out as a valuable addition to his bartending resume and an attraction for his restaurant, but it has become a hobby and enjoyable pastime. Still, his love of wine hasn’t spread to everyone close to him.
“Cheryl is not as interested in wine as I am — she usually has me recommend something, but not everyone likes the same things,” Galloway said.